Media office

Archives 2010
Archives 2009
Archives 2008
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Olive Cotton
The first art museum retrospective exhibition of this revered Australian photographer Saturday 13 May to Sunday 2 July 2000 Art Gallery of New South Wales then touring to Canberra

Olive Cotton is recognised as one of Australia's leading twentieth century photographers. Her Tea cup ballet and studies of flowers produced during the 1930s are among her best known works, and this retrospective exhibition will show the extensive and impressive range of her long career.

The exhibition spans from the late 1920s until the early 1990s when, aged in her eighties, Olive Cotton ceased to make prints from her negatives. The 68 selected photographs are Olive Cotton's finest vintage prints, on loan from private and public collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia and from the Art Gallery of New South Wales' own collection. Guest Curator Helen Ennis said: 'Two major phases of Olive Cotton's career will be closely examined the 1930s to mid 1940s, and the 1980s, when photography was at the centre of her life. The full range of her work is represented to demonstrate her mastery of the photographic medium. Especially significant are the continuities in her approach: her abiding love of nature, astute powers of observation, democratic treatment of her subject matter, and her enduring interest in patterning and the play of light'.

Many of the works in this exhibition came to light four years ago when Olive Cotton packed up her studio in Cowra which for more than 30 years had been at the centre of her life in photography. The move and subsequent sorting of her contents brought to light a substantial amount of previously unknown material, including outstanding vintage prints and biographical and contextual items. 'Bringing this material together has made it possible to gain a richer and more complex picture of Cotton's work of the last six decades,' said Ms. Ennis.

The exhibition also draws attention to lesser known aspects of Olive Cotton's photographic practice. The commercial and personal work produced during the war years is represented more fully than has previously been possible. Her personal and professional relationship with Max Dupain is well known, and is elaborated on through the inclusion of several portraits of Dupain from the 1930s.

During the second world war years Olive Cotton managed the Max Dupain Studio and commissions were diverse, spanning product advertising, book illustrations, work for arts publisher and patron Sydney Ure Smith, portraits and child studies. She photographed 'anything that came. And I never turned anything down.'

In 1946 she moved to the country with her second husband, Ross McInerney, and while she continued to take photographs, mainly of her two young children and environs, developing and printing them was out of the question until 1964 when she opened her studio in Cowra.

It was not until the 1980s that her photographic work came to national prominence again and her work was keenly sought for exhibitions.

This major exhibition will enable previously unknown work to be viewed by a new and expanded audience to discover and appreciate Olive Cotton's outstanding work.
On view:Saturday 13 May to Sunday 2 July 2000
Art Gallery of New South Wales Art Gallery Road
The Domain, Sydney

National Library of Australia, Canberra 12 July to 19 September 2000
Telephone:(02) 9225 1744 or recorded information
(02) 9225 1790

Hours:Daily 10am to 5pm
Admission:Free of charge
Media Information and Interviews:Jan Batten:
Press Office
Telephone: (02) 9233 1213 or (0418) 279 348
Facsimile: 61 2 9221 3185
email: janb@ag.nsw.gov.au

images available on request

Olive Cotton (Australia 1911)
Tea cup ballet c.1935
gelatin silver photograph
Art Gallery of New South Wales