National Gallery celebrates pioneering women of modern art with new exhibition

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National Gallery celebrates pioneering women of modern art with new exhibition
Eveline Syme, Skating., 1929, National Gallery of Australia, Kamberri/Canberra, purchased 1979.



CANBERRA.- The National Gallery of Australia continues to highlight the contribution of Australian women artists with Know My Name: Making it Modern, an exhibition that opened 5 August 2023.

Advancing the National Gallery’s gender equity initiative, Know My Name: Making it Modern celebrates the works of pioneering women artists who changed the course of modern art in Australia.

This August, the National Gallery explores the impact that early modernist women artists have made on Australian art history through major presentations of work by Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, Clarice Beckett, Olive Cotton, Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme, with a focus on the on the dynamic period between the 1920s and the late 1940s.

Dr Deborah Hart, Henry Dalrymple Head Curator, Australian Art, said the strength of the National Gallery’s collection is revealed in examples of some of these artists’ greatest works.

‘The unifying threads are the ways in which these women engage with daily life, nature, still life and interior worlds of place, mind and imagination.

‘Yet, each one of the artists brings a quite distinctive approach to their artistic practice: from dramatic prints by Margaret Preston, to evocative photographs of Olive Cotton, to the radiance of Grace Cossington Smith’s paintings, and the poetic atmosphere of Clarice Beckett’s works,’ Hart said.

‘In each instance the artists convey a particular take on what it meant to be a modern woman in their times and in the making of their art.’

Dr Sarina Noordhuis-Fairfax, Curator, Australian Prints and Drawings, said Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme are often overlooked in Australian art history, yet during the 1930s they were recognised by peers as being among the most progressive artists working in Melbourne.

‘Exhibiting in Australia and England, they championed key ideas from European modernism such as contemporary art reflecting the pace and vitality of life.’

Know My Name: Making it Modern is a free exhibition and on display at the National Gallery in Kamberri/Canberra from 5 Aug to 8 Oct 2023.










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