ART AND LIFE
26 May - 13 August 2006
Margaret Preston (1875-1963) is one of Australia’s most celebrated artists and the country’s
most important early modernist. Her vibrant, decorative paintings and prints of the 1920s and 30s
epitomise a unique era in the history of Australian art. Born in Adelaide as Margaret Rose
McPherson in 1875, Margaret Preston had by the 1920s become one of Australia’s leading modernist
artists. She had spent the years of World War I living and working in Paris and Britain developing
an art based on the decorative or abstract principles of European post-impressionism and the
Japanese print tradition of Ukiyo-e. Moving to Sydney by 1920 (having married William Preston) she
expanded her practice to encompass the concept of an appropriately national art, and became one of
the country’s most astute public commentators on the wider cultural issues shaping Australia in the
era of its new modernity. Preston’s growing recognition of the intrinsic connection between country
and art in Aboriginal culture, both informed her work and prompted her ongoing travel around
Australia to study sites of Aboriginal rock painting. Her works of the 1940s and 50s argue for her
re-assessment as one of the country’s most significant landscape artists.
This is the most extensive exhibition ever presented of Margaret Preston’s art, with over 180 works including paintings, prints, pottery, textiles and previously unseen archival material relating to Preston’s colourful life.
The exhibition has been curated by Deborah Edwards, Senior Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales.