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

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Grace Cossington Smith

Early years
City Life
The Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Lacquer Room
A painter of colour and light
Into the landscape
Travels abroad
The Art of Performance
The War Years
'The Blake Prize'
Works with Studies

Grace Cossington Smith: a retrospective exhibition is a tribute to one of Australia’s most significant and paradoxical artists. Cossington Smith (1892–1984) lived a relatively secluded life in the Sydney suburb of Turramurra for most of her adult life. She was also one of the most brilliant pioneering modernists of her generation. A wonderful colourist, her best work is underpinned by a sense of structure that came through drawing.

During her first two years as an art student with Anthony Dattilo Rubbo, Cossington Smith focused on drawing. As she said, ‘I drew from my earliest years … I didn’t begin painting till I was quite grown up, because I was always so keen on drawing’ (interview with Hazel de Berg, 1965, National Library of Australia). This is reflected in many beautiful drawings, including those in her early sketchbooks.

In March 1912, as a young artist in her early twenties, Cossington Smith travelled abroad with her father, Ernest, and sister Mabel to England, where she studied at the Winchester School of Art. Her love of architecture that informs her later work is already apparent in her meticulous studies of churches and Winchester Cathedral in England.

Cossington Smith returned to Australia in 1914 just prior to the outbreak of the World War I. Her family had moved to a new home called Cossington, in Turramurra. To her delight her father had built her a small studio at the bottom of the garden. It was an affirmation of his belief in her potential as an artist.

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