The viewer could treat this exhibition as an exercise in ‘compare and contrast’, or follow my preference and simply enjoy the beautiful paintings. The exhibition is called O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith : Making Modernism; it is now at the Art Gallery of NSW (until 2 October) having already been at Heide Museum of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery. It celebrates of the work of Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), Margaret Preston (1875-1963) and Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984). Their lives were more or less parallel and each sought to find their way of depicting the world anew. The decades after the First World War saw many artists seeking a new way; few were as successful as these three in doing so with vitality and optimism.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe has partnered the three Australian galleries to bring a major body of O’Keeffe work here for the first time. The 30 or so works are as lush and sensual as might have been expected. We are very familiar with Margaret Preston’s work in reproduction but here is a wonderful opportunity to see the originals of some of her most famous pictures. Flying Over the Shoalhaven River (1942) is her embracing the modernity of aviation. Some may feel we’ve seen a lot of Grace Cossington Smith recently, but for me, a lot is never too much. Fascinated with the construction of the Bridge, her images were powerful evocations of modernity. Time to love her work all over again.
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