Ode to Margaret Preston

For some time it has oft ben quoted “your work reminds me of Margaret Preston”. Maybe it’s my love of flowers in art that brings this appreciation of Margaret’s work to the fore of the viewers mind, Im not sure, however I am honoured that in this small and humble recognition I am linked to her name.

I decided earlier this year that  I would produce a small body of work in her honour and here it is in July and I am on to my third piece.  I too have long admired the ability of this exceptionally talented woman, one of whom I consider to be Australia’s best and most versatile modernist artists. In particular, inspired by her earlier block printing and her use of subtle colour with this technique, then her interpretation of a floral still-life on canvas,  Im enjoying how my work using textiles and thread to capture aspects and features of her work that have ‘grabbed me’,  is evolving. Cxx

Courtesy of the Art Gallery of NSW I have provided a short biography of Margaret’s life, however I encourage you to find out more and discover the inspirational energy that drove Margaret to be the iconic artist recognised as she is today.

Born in Adelaide as Margaret Rose McPherson in 1875, Margaret Preston had by the 1920s become one of Australia’s leading modernist artists.

She had spent the years of World War I living and working in Paris and Britain developing an art based on the decorative or abstract principles of European post-impressionism and the Japanese print tradition of Ukiyo-e.

Moving to Sydney by 1920 (having married William Preston) she expanded her practice to encompass the concept of an appropriately national art, and became one of the country’s most astute public commentators on the wider cultural issues shaping Australia in the era of its new modernity.

Attaching equal importance to craft and painting, she had, by the late 1920s, gained an exceptional place in the Sydney art establishment. In 1929 she became the first woman and modernist to be invited by the Art Gallery of NSW to contribute a self portrait to the collection.

Preston spent much of the 1930s living in bushland at Berowra, some 40 kms north of Sydney, an experience which catalysed a key extension of her art to incorporate landscape painting. Preston’s growing recognition of the intrinsic connection between country and art in Aboriginal culture, both informed her work and prompted her ongoing travel around Australia to study sites of Aboriginal rock painting.

Preston held her last major exhibition in 1953. As in previous decades, the Prestons continued to travel extensively in Australia and abroad. Her final public lecture delivered at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1958, was the last of an extraordinary number of lectures, talks and articles, written and delivered by Preston throughout her career. She died on 28 May 1963.


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