Margaret Preston (1875-1963) Australian Native Flowers, 1941,

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Lot 43
Margaret Preston
(1875-1963)
Australian Native Flowers, 1941,

Sold for AU$ 504,300 (US$ 355,270) inc. premium

Important Australian Art

22 Apr 2021, 18:30 EST

Sydney

Margaret Preston (1875-1963)
Australian Native Flowers, 1941, also known as 'West Australian Flowers'
signed and dated lower left: 'M. PRESTON / 41'
oil on canvas
51.0 x 51.0cm (20 1/16 x 20 1/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    H.W. Grace, Sydney
    Mr & Mrs Colin Parker, Sydney
    Sotheby's, 26 November 1990, lot 274
    Private collection, Tasmania

    EXHIBITED
    possibly, Australian Academy of Art Fourth Annual Exhibition, Athenaeum Gallery, Melbourne, 21 April - 16 May 1941, cat. 35, as West Australian Flowers
    possibly, Society of Artists, Annual Exhibition, Education Department's Art Gallery, Sydney, 5 - 25 September 1941, cat. 8, as Still Life
    Margaret Preston: Art and Life, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 July - 23 October 2005, then touring; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 12 November 2005 - 29 January 2006, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 18 February - 7 May 2006, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 26 May - 13 August 2006 (label attached verso)

    LITERATURE
    Deborah Edwards, Rose Peel and Denise Mimmocchi, Margaret Preston, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, pp. 155, 169 (illus.)
    Margaret Preston Catalogue Raisonné of paintings, monotypes and ceramics, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, CD-ROM compiled by Denise Mimmocchi, with Deborah Edwards and Rose Peel (illus.)


    In her unwavering quest to develop a quintessentially Australian style, Margaret Preston frequently focused on indigenous flora and fauna as a vehicle for her exceptionally strong sense of design and composition. Among her most famous and satisfying paintings and prints are those in which she brings the distinctive qualities of Australian flora – the unusually structured flowers, the tough, drought-resistant leaves and the harmonious, earthy colours – into an impressive and decisive whole. It is these works that, when exhibited during the late 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s, had substantial impact on her audiences, and drew bitter criticism and considerable acclaim in almost equal measure.

    During the 1930s Preston and her husband Bill were living in Berowra near the Hawkesbury River. Their 14 acres of native bush land which was home to more than 250 species of native flora. 'Living in Berowra refined Preston's perceptions of the land and her possible connection to it, she later wrote that: it is true that Australian light is stronger and more vivid that that of other countries... but light is fugitive and so are the atmospheric effects... where as form never changes, and the forms of the country are its own characteristics which the artist must know before he adds his personality to it'. 1

    In 1939 on the eve of the war, the Prestons left Berowra and took up residence in the harbour suburb of Clifton Gardens on the lower North Shore. Her subjects of the early 1940s took on a radical new direction moving away from her more stylised still lifes which we are accustomed to. She focused on landscape paintings in a bid to express her experiences of the Australian landscape with their darker naturally subdued earthy tones, as well as the introduction of social commentary and recording her reactions to the pending war.

    The present work, Australian Native Flowers, 1941, is an exceptional example painted at a decisive time in the artist's life. Her masterly use of colour and form are underpinned by her immense knowledge of Australian native flora. In a similar fashion to her structured works of the early 1930s, Preston adopts a monochromatic palette to form an ambiguous backdrop. Bursts of splendid colour allow the natural beauty of the flowers to shine, possessing all the unique qualities that identify Margaret Preston as one of Australia's most celebrated modernists. As Sydney Ure Smith once wrote, 'Margaret Preston is a natural enemy of the dull.'2

    1. Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, p.152
    2. Sydney Ure Smith, 'editorial', Art in Australia, Sydney, 3rd Series, No. 22, 1927
Contacts
Margaret Preston (1875-1963) Australian Native Flowers, 1941,
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