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

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A painter of colour and light

The years from 1926 until the mid-1930s were among the most important in Grace Cossington Smith’s artistic life, when her potential as a painter of colour and light, structure and rhythmic pattern, was realised in work after work. It was as though the previous years of concentrated effort and inventiveness in drawing and painting had blossomed into her mature vision.

By the mid-1920s she had made a break with her teacher, Dattilo Rubbo, and her works began to fill with luminous colour. As Thea Proctor wrote, Cossington Smith’s ‘lovely and individual colour sense’ was achieved with paint ‘applied once and not touched again … [with] a mat-dry surface, freshness and vitality’. (‘Modern art in Sydney’, Art in Australia, November, 1938)

It was during this period that Cossington Smith produced remarkable modernist works inspired by her local environment: the garden of her home at Turramurra and the landscape nearby. She also painted radiating flowers and concentric still-life subjects, including Teacups: the Harlequin set and the dynamic Things on an iron tray on the floor. Along with paintings relating to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Cossington Smith’s inventive, vibrant works of this period place her at the forefront of the modern movement in Australia.

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