“It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.”- Albert Camus
For Art Sunday today, Grace Cossington-Smith, an Australian artist. Grace Cossington Smith (22 April 1892 – 10 December 1984) was an Australian artist and pioneer of modernist painting in Australia and was instrumental in introducing Post-Impressionism to Australia. Examples of her work are held by every major gallery in Australia.
She is best known for her light-filled still life paintings, landscapes, and home interiors, celebrating the wondrous beauty of creation. In summarising her approach, she said, ‘All form – landscape, interiors, still life, flowers, animals, people – has an articulate grace and beauty, painting to me is expressing this form in colour; colour vibrant with life – but containing this other, silent quality which is unconscious, and belongs to all things created.’
She was born Grace Smith, in Neutral Bay, Sydney, second of five children of London-born solicitor Ernest Smith and his wife Grace, née Fisher, who was the daughter of the rector of Cossington in Leicestershire. The family moved to Thornleigh, New South Wales around 1890. Grace attended Abbotsleigh School for Girls in Wahroonga 1905–09 where Albert Collins and Alfred Coffey took art classes. From 1910–11 she studied drawing with Antonio Dattilo Rubbo.
From 1912–14 she and her sister lived in England, staying with an aunt at Winchester where she attended drawing classes as well as classes at Speck in Germany, and was exposed to paintings by Watteau in Berlin. After returning to Sydney in 1914 she attended Dattilo Rubbo’s painting classes and took an interest in modernist theories.
Her ‘The Sock Knitter’ (1915) was arguably Australia’s first post-Impressionist painting. She adopted the middle name ‘Cossington’ in 1920. Her work was greatly respected by fellow-artists Roland Wakelin and Roy de Maistre. She exhibited with the Royal Art Society of New South Wales from 1915, the Society of Artists from 1919 and Thea Proctor’s Contemporary Group at Adrian Feint’s Grosvenor Gallery from 1926–28, and from 1932 to 1971, at the Macquarie Galleries. Her painting is characterised by individual, square brush strokes with bright unblended colours. Her many paintings of Sydney landscapes, still lifes, and interiors include ‘Kuringai Avenue’ (1943), ‘Fruit in the Window’ (1957), and, arguably her most famous painting, ‘The Lacquer Room’ (1935 - see above). She received acclaim late in her career, and in 1973 a major retrospective exhibition of her work toured Australia.