Aboriginal still life


Margaret Preston returned to Australia from Europe in 1919 determined to develop a modern and distinctly national art. Indigenous art was integral to her campaign and, after 1932, when she moved to Berowra in the Hawkesbury Basin near Sydney and encountered local rock art, she embraced its restricted palette and geometric forms. Her appreciation of Indigenous art was sincere and enlightened for her time; however, the forms and motifs that inform the modernist style of this painting are displaced from their original cultural and spiritual contexts.

Margaret Preston, Australia 1875-1963 / Aboriginal still life 1940 / Oil on canvas / Gift of the Godfrey Rivers Trust through Miss Daphne Mayo 1940 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Margaret Preston 1940/Licensed by Viscopy 2017

O’Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism’ is on show at the Queensland Art Gallery until 11 June 2017 and is accompanied by an exhibition publication available from the QAGOMA Store.


The exhibition explores the intersection of three remarkable modernist painters who each used colour and abstraction to create a distinct, identifiable art. Even though they did not discuss their work with each other, North American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) and Australians Margaret Preston (1875–1963) and Grace Cossington Smith (1892–1984) shared a passionate curiosity for the natural world, and each worked within the emerging transcultural discourse of Modernism.

Presented by the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, in partnership with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Gordon Darling Foundation.