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Cities & Suburbs looks at the urban landscape and its inhabitants.

Throughout the 20th century artists have explored everyday views of city streets, but these works were not highly regarded alongside the ‘gumtree’ school of local landscape painting. The turning point was the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened in March 1932. It was acclaimed as the world’s largest arch bridge, and its construction captured the imagination of the Australian public and the many painters, printmakers and photographers who recorded every stage of its progress. In its soaring geometry, the Bridge appealed to progressive artists, particularly women artists who were drawn to modernist movements such as Cubism and Abstraction.

The other great stimulus to painting the urban scene in the 1930s was the Depression, which prompted artists to paint scenes of hardship and social unrest. By the 1950s, with the country in a more optimistic mood, artists set out to capture the distinctive life of the cities and suburbs. Contemporary artists have continued this tradition, revealing the darker side of the ‘urban edge’, as well as the changing face of Australia’s major cities which have grown from unsophisticated towns to places of both excitement and danger surrounded by sprawling suburbs.

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