DETAIL: Grace COSSINGTON SMITH,  'Interior in yellow', 1964, oil on composition board, National Gallery of Australia

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'The Blake Prize'

In the early 1950s Cossington Smith worked on two biblical paintings for inclusion in the newly established Blake Prize for religious art. The first was 'Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question', the title derives from Matthew, chapter xxii, verse 35. It recalls her enjoyment of works she had seen in Italy by the painters such as Giotto and Masaccio. The message in Cossington Smith's work is about doubt positioned against faith and love: the divine and the secular as one.

'I looked and behold a door was opened in Heaven' also recalls the impact of of the works Cossington Smith had seen in Europe, in particular the frescoes of Fra Angelico, as well as glowing, ecclesiastical mosaics. This is an idiosyncratic, quirky painting. It is also significant in making the invisible visible, revealing a subtext in much of Cossington Smith's art: the desire to integrate the spiritual into the everyday. It was as though, at sixty years of age, the artist's own revelation appeared through the door of her home at Cossington. It was a reaffirmation of faith from the intimacy of her home base. In this quite eccentric, religious work she had come full circle as the door opened onto her luminous late interiors.

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