Arts & Entertainment

O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism

Georgia O'Keeffe Ram's Head, Blue Morning Glory, 1938 oil on canvas 50.8 x 76.2 cm Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Gift of The Burnett Foundation

What does iconic American artist Georgia O’Keeffe have in common with the pioneering Australian artists Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith?

Their subject was the experience of the modern world.

Modernity was a reaction to the surge in social, economic and political transformations throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The liberalisation of society created a wave of artists who experimented with artistic and cultural expression. Artistic modernism rejected traditionalism and sought to operate under the notion of reinvention.

The Making Modernism exhibition brings together around 30 works by each artist, exploring the breadth of their careers. O’Keeffe, Preston and Cossington Smith all developed their own unique styles but each experimented with light, colour and form. They are connected by their commitment to presenting alternative ways of seeing the world as well as their interest in portraying nature.

The collection demonstrates the intention of each artist to represent still-life in a way which also explored their own physical and social contexts. Preston once said that still-life paintings are like, “laboratory tables on which aesthetic problems can be isolated.”

Denise Mimmocchi, senior curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW said that in this way the works “penetrate physical reality and focus on extracting the physical essence of something. It’s like looking at something through a microscope.”

Modernism in art transformed the way people thought about creative pursuits. Its deeply profound impact continues to influence the way people think about, represent and reinterpret the world.

Jul 1-Oct 2, 10am-5pm, Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Rd, The Domain, Sydney, $8-$18. Tickets & Info: www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au

By Ellouise Bailey.