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

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Into the landscape

From the late 1930s until the early 1950s there is great stylistic diversity in Grace Cossington Smith’s work. During these years she often went on painting excursions around Sydney and in regional New South Wales with her friends Helen Stewart, Enid Cambrige, Treania Smith and Jean Appleton. Works inspired by these excursions reveal a distinct change, moving from the non-representational, vivid colours of her more overtly modernist paintings towards muted browns, ochres and dusky greens.

In Cobbity Church, Cossington Smith reaffirmed her fascination with church architecture and a sense of local community. Following the marriage of her brother, Gordon, to Mary Yarwood in 1931, she sometimes painted around Exeter in the Southern Highlands where Mary’s parents had a property. In works such as Moss Vale landscape Cossington Smith was aiming to capture a distinctively Australian ethos in the dry, rural landscape. During this period she also became enchanted with Australian wildflowers, which she felt reflected the colour and light of the local environment.

While in the bush Cossington Smith often adopted Cézanne’s strategy of meditating on the motif in nature for long periods of time. She said that of all the painters she admired ‘there aren’t any others that impress me like Cézanne ... I think that he painted what I wanted … that was a help, to see that done’. (Interview with Alan Roberts, 1970)

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