Colour, rhythm, design draws upon the Gallery's rich collection of wood and lino cuts from the 1920s and 30s by artists including Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor and Adelaide Perry.
This period witnessed a great blossoming of activity among artists who were excited at the capacity of these printing techniques to create bold, modern images.
The vitality of work in this sphere was influenced by the example of contemporary European and American printmakers, particularly through the English journal Studio. Local artists Lionel Lindsay, Margaret Preston and, in Melbourne, Napier Waller championed the art of relief printmaking and the first Australian exhibition devoted to the woodcut was held in Sydney in 1923. This was reinforced by numerous articles on the subject published by Sydney Ure Smith in his journal Art in Australia and built upon a contemporary enthusiasm for Japanese prints.
Artists’ interest in wood and lino cuts should also be seen in the context of early 20th-century art, which witnessed a continuing breakdown of barriers between art and craft; and of modernism, in which artists increasingly emphasised formal qualities in their work. A new focus was on design: with simplified shapes and lines, broad areas of flat colour and bold rhythmic patterns – an approach facilitated by both techniques but particularly the relatively new, more easily-cut medium of lino, which lent itself more readily to experiments with colour.
The exhibition showcases the work of ten artists including leading figures Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor, Adelaide Perry and Dorrit Black. Also included are Ethel Spowers, Evelyne Syme, Mabel Pye, Vera Blackburn, Gladys Gibbons and Murray Griffin; most of them little-known beyond specialist circles of print enthusiasts and collectors.
Some 30 prints on themes from play to the city, still life and landscape highlight the interest these artists shared – in colour, rhythm and design.
This display is part of the Australian Collection Focus Room series of exhibitions.