Margaret Preston – Australian printmaker
18 December 2004 – 10 April 2005
The National Gallery of Australia presents Margaret Preston – Australian printmaker, a comprehensive exhibition featuring an extraordinary collection of the artist's etchings, woodcuts, Masonite cuts, monotypes and stencils from 1920–1956. It also includes personal items selected from the Gallery's rich research archive.
Margaret Preston (1875–1963) is most widely known for her vibrant, decorative paintings and prints of distinctively Australian subjects (flowers, birds, animals and landscapes) that have delighted the Australian public since they were first exhibited in the early 1920s.
For many years an autobiographical essay provocatively titled From eggs to Electrolux formed the basis of our knowledge of Preston's early life. However, research by many art historians has shown that what Preston wrote did not always tally with fact. On her marriage certificate, for example, she reduced her age by some eight years, making herself slightly younger than her husband!
The National Gallery of Australia has contributed much to this new research by its acquisition of documents relating to the artist's life. This outstanding archive contains, among other items, the artist and her husband's passports, notebooks with writings on colour theory and screen-printing, photo albums documenting their travels from the 1930s to the 1950s, and even a recipe scrapbook from the artist's childhood.
These insights into Preston's life have led to a reappraisal of the artist's work. The colourful woodcuts of views of Sydney Harbour, vases of Australian flowers, and birds and animals that she produced in the 1920s remain her best-known work. Conversely, Preston's relocation from Sydney to the small community at Berowra on the Hawkesbury River (1932–39) changed her art radically. Here she came to understand the fundamental form and spiritual nature of Australia's ancient landscape. She joined the Anthropological Society of New South Wales, studied the art of Aboriginal Australians and immersed herself in the theoretical writings of the great Chinese landscape painters. The landscape became the prime theme for her later, mature works.
Roger Butler, Senior Curator, Australian Prints and Drawings said: 'the prints produced when in her 80s are her most profound. In them Preston has imbedded the experience of a lifetime, fusing together her ideas to create a unique vision of the Australian landscape, both physically and spiritually'.
The exhibition coincides with a revised and expanded edition of The prints of Margaret Preston: a catalogue raisonné,which details and illustrates all of the artist's printed work, to be released in early 2005.
Media launch details
Thursday 16 December midday, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes ACT