On Tuesday, we explored the beautiful art books concerning artists of the period before the 1900s. This post continues our journey into the wonderful world of art through books about the artists of the Twentieth Century.
Even though the next four artists were born in the mid 1870s and 1880s, they came into their own over the turn of the century, a time of great excitement and hope for the future, when photography was in its infancy and Australia became a nation, achieving their peak fame in the 1920s. They include: Australian printmaker, Margaret Preston (1875-1963); photographer, Harold Cazneaux (1878-1953), and painter, Elioth Gruner (1882-1939), both of whom were born in New Zealand, but grew up in Australia and Australian artist, Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884-1961).
Margaret Preston by Elizabeth Butel 1985/ 1995
Well-known for her still life paintings and woodcuts of Australian flora and fauna and one of Australia’s leading Modernists of the early 20th century, Margaret was the most prominent Australian woman artist of the 1920s and 1930s, during which time her designs were used in painting and printmaking, as well as interior decoration, fabric design and even floral arrangements. The cover shows her Self-Portrait 1930.Studying in Munich and Paris, and travelling in Italy, Spain and Holland, between 1903 and 1919, Margaret was heavily influenced by Japanese art and the Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism movements of the time. She also attended Roger Fry’s Omega workshops in decorative art in Britain during the First World War. Below is a photo of her, taken in 1930, by my next artist, Harold Cazneaux, titled: Margaret Preston in the Garden, from page 43 of this book.
Her works display a love of asymmetry; pattern as a dominant element of design; simplified composition, where natural patterns are so closely observed that they can be broken down into discrete units, as seen in the photo below of The Brown Pot 1940 from page 57; a degree of primitivism; and a great appreciation and love of Australian flora and fauna, as well as the small things of life. Her earlier works show an emotive and sensual use of colour, as seen in the photo below of her hand-coloured woodcut Anemones 1925, from page 32 of the book: but as she progressed, she adopted a more restricted colour range, with a major emphasis on blue and a graphic use of black and white, as shown by this photo of one of my favourite oils: Implement Blue 1927, from page 38:This detailed book discusses her early life and the three major phases in her work: the periods from1875 to 1920; 1920 to 1930; and 1924 to 1963; accompanied by a comprehensive bibliography of all her works; newspaper and journal articles; and books and monographs, as well as a catalogue of all her oil paintings; prints (etchings; woodcuts; masonite cuts; screen prints; stencils; and monotypes); fabric designs; ceramics and wood blocks. Here is a photo of one of her works on the cover of the October 1926 issue of magazine, Woman’s World, from p 42:We feel very lucky to have one of her framed prints, a hand-coloured woodcut, titled Christmas Bells 1925. For more information on Margaret Preston, see: http://www.margaretpreston.info/ and https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/?artist_id=preston-margaret.
The Cazneaux Women by Valerie Hill 2000
Another lovely book featuring the monochromatic works of early Australian photographer, Harold Cazneaux (1878-1953) , with their beautiful women subjects , romantic compositions and a wonderful use of light and shade. The book cover features his photo of British artist and theatre designer, Doris Zinkeisen with Her Brushes 1929.
I have always loved black-and-white photographs for their focus on design and composition, line and structure (form and shape), pattern and texture, contrast and tonal variations and the play of light and shadow, without the distraction of colour. These elements are superbly illustrated in the dramatic work of contemporary German photographer, Maik Lipp: See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/01/maik-lipp_n_4019302.html.
While it was the only medium in Cazneaux’s day, when used today, it also lends a timeless or vintage aesthetic to the work, as can be seen in the work featured on this website: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/06/beautiful-black-and-white-photography/, although I still think the subject matter and treatment plays a big part of it too. Compare the previous two links with the work of Imogen Cunningham: https://www.imogencunningham.com and Endre Balogh at: http://www.endresphotos.com.
But back to Harold Cazneaux!
While Cazneaux also photographed historic cityscapes, and industrial and landscape aspects, this particular book is devoted to 36 plates of Cazneaux’s women – his wife Winifred and small daughters, Rainbow, Jean and Beryl, as well as stylish portraits of well-known women in the 1920s and 1930s including artist, Margaret Preston, writers Ethel Turner and Theo Proctor, performers, Dame Nellie Melba and Anna Pavlova; and a large number of Sydney social belles. I adore this photo: Bathing Baby 1909 from p 50:The plates show the developments in camera art, as well as women’s fashions and the changing role of women, from the formally posed wet plate images of the 1870s (and earlier albumen prints), through the Pictorial period to the start of Modernism, where Max Dupain and Olive Cotton (see later) made their mark. Here is another favourite photograph by Harold Cazneaux: The Sleeping Child 1914 from page 64.We also learn about Harold’s life, his relationships with women and his artistic influences from his parents, Pierce and Emma, both early photographers; stepmother Christina, who nurtured his talent; his wife, Winifred, who trained at the first photographic studio, where he worked; John Kauffmann, who introduced Pictorialism to Australia, and the Sydney Camera Circle of the early 1920s. Harold’s photograph, Rainbow in the Cosmos 1916, from page 62, is delightful!
His photograph Pergola Pattern 1931, from page 100 shows such a superb mastery of composition, pattern and contrast and the play of light and shadow!
The Cazneaux Collection, containing 272 exhibition prints; 200 working photographs and 4300 glass negatives, mainly from 1904 – 1940, as well as his personal papers and letters from 1903 – 1953, is held at the National Library of Australia: See: https://www.nla.gov.au/selected-library-collections/harold-cazneaux-collection.
I loved the background of the these two photographs: Doris Zinkeisen: New Ideas Portrait with Leaf Background 1929 from page 91 (above); and A Study in Profile 1931 from p 104:There are also significant collections of his photographs at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and the Mitchell Library and Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. See: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/?artist_id=cazneaux-harold.
The Art of Elioth Gruner: The Texture of Light by Deborah Clark 2014
This cover features Elioth Gruner’s oil painting, titled Thunderstorm 1928.
Elioth Gruner (1882 – 1939 ) was also a master of light and shade, as seen in his very famous painting, displayed in the Art Gallery Of New South Wales: Spring Frost 1919, which introduced me to his work, seen in the poster below. The shafts of sunlight and the steam rising from the bellowing dairy cows can probably be better appreciated by viewing this link: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/6925/.We were also lucky enough to attend an exhibition of his work, Elioth Gruner: The Texture of Light, at the Canberra Museum and Gallery in 2014, many of his landscapes painted en plein air from the Sydney to the South Coast of New South Wales, including Cooma and the Monaro; the Canberra region, Yass and the Murrumbidgee River valley and the Southern Highlands, all part of our new home! Is it any wonder that we brought the book based on the exhibition home with us!!There is even a painting of our old stamping grounds in Northern New South Wales with his painting Shelley Beach, Nambucca Heads 1933 (photo above from page 86), and Winter Afternoon, Bellingen, NSW 1937 , the latter held by our old home art gallery NERAM , which also owns his paintings: Beach Idyll 1934 and The Beach 1918, another personal favourite (seen in the photo below from page 21 of the book)!I adore his landscapes depicting pastoral life and the rural homesteads of the period, like Manar, a large cattle and sheep property between Bungendore and Braidwood, seen here in his oil painting, Manar Landscape 1928, the first photo below from page 52 of the book and Autumn, Manar 1939, 2nd photo below, from page 53.He was obviously very popular in his day, enjoying the support of both conservative and progressive elements of the Sydney art scene, as well as winning the Wynne Prize for landscape painting seven times between 1916 and 1937. It was wonderful to see his paintings so closeup, to examine and admire his techniques for reproducing light and shadows, using short, choppy brush strokes and different tones of greens, as exemplified by Morning Light 1916, his first painting to win this award, shown in the photo above from page 26. Spring Frost 1919 was his second Wynne Prize.Hilda Rix Nicholas: The Man For the Job by the Bendigo Art Gallery 2010
We were also very fortunate to see an exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery in 2010 of the works of Australian artist, Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884-1961), who also came to fame in the 1920s, the second Australian artist after Rupert Bunny (who I discussed in the first part of this post last Tuesday) and the first woman to have a solo exhibition in Paris in 1925.
She too painted many lovely paintings of life in rural Australia, especially her family property, run by her second husband, Edgar Wright, at Knockalong near Delegate, on the Southern Monaro. I love this painting of His Land 1922-1923 from page 30. Other favourites are: In the Bush 1927, from page 41; Bringing in the Sheep 1936, held by our local art gallery, Bega Valley Regional Gallery, shown on page 54 of the book;
and The Homestead of Tooraloo 1945 from page 60.The book also chronicles her brilliant early career, from 1907 to 1918, in France, Morocco and Italy, marred by the desperate loss of her travel companions, her sister and mother, from illness and the untimely death of her new husband of six weeks on the Western Front in the First World War. For more about Hilda Rix Nicholas, see: http://knockalong.com/?page_id=664.
No discussion of the art world of the 1920s is complete without reference to the Bloomsbury Group, the subject of the next two books:
Charleston: A Bloomsbury House & Garden by Quentin Bell and Virginia Nicholson 1997
The Bloomsbury Group was a very famous name in the British art world, and while most of its members were born in the 1880s, their main flowering came during the 1920s after their move to Charleston in 1916 to escape the horrors of the First World War.
This lovely book is an ode to Charleston and all its inhabitants: Vanessa Bell and her husband, Clive (temporarily), their sons Julian and Quentin, the co-author of this book; Vanessa’s lovers, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant, to whom she bore a daughter, Angelica; David Garnett, Duncan’s homosexual lover, and Clive’s lover, Mary Hutchinson, as well as other members of the Bloomsbury Group: Vanessa’s sister, Virginia Woolf, and husband, Leonard, who lived nearby; Lytton Strachey; Desmond MacCarthy; EM Forster and Maynard Keynes, not to mention chief cook and housekeeper, Grace Higgins.
Starting with a map of the garden and ground plans of each storey of the house and an introduction with its highly appropriate title: A Vanished World, a chapter devoted to Charleston’s golden age from 1925 to 1937, which was shattered by the death of Vanessa’s son, Julian in the Spanish Civil War, just before the Second World War.
Through the following chapters featuring each room : Clive Bell’s study and bedroom; Vanessa’s bedroom; the spare bedroom; and those of Maynard Keynes and Duncan Grant; the green bathroom; the dining room and kitchen; the library; the studios; the garden room and finally the beautiful garden, Angelica’s ‘earthly paradise’, including the productive Walled Garden and numerous old photographs, we get to know all about their unconventional lives and their art.
It is backed up by the following small paperback:
Charleston: Past and Present by Quentin Bell, Angelica Garnett, Henrietta Garnet and Richard Shone 1987/ 1993
This official guide to Charleston also describes the contents of each room, and includes essays on Life at Charleston, including personal letters and memoirs, like the childhood memories of the garden, written by Quentin Bell; and the memoirs of Vanessa’s daughter Angelica and her daughter Henrietta, who recalls her grandmother, ‘Nessa’. It is possible to still visit Charleston. See: https://www.charleston.org.uk/ for details of opening times.
1930 to 1960s
The Boyds by Brenda Niall 2002/ 2007
The Boyd family is a very famous artistic dynasty in Australia, founded by Emma Minnie à Beckett (1858-1936) and her husband Arthur Merric Boyd (1862-1940), whose children also pursued art: William Merric (1888-1959) became a potter; Theodore Penleigh (1890-1923); and Helen à Beckett (1903-1999) were both painters and son, Martin à Beckett (1893-1972) became a writer.
William married a painter, Doris Gough, and raised five talented artists: a potter, Lucy (1916 -2009); sculptor, Guy (1923-1988); and three painters: Arthur (1920-1999); David (1924-2011); and Mary (1926-2017).
They in turn have raised artists like Lucy’s potter son, Robert; Guy’s sculptor daughters, Lenore, Sally and Charlotte; Arthur’s children, Polly, Jamie and Lucy; David’s daughters, Amanda, Lucinda and Cassandra; and Mary’s children by her first husband, John Perceval: Matthew, Tessa, Celia and Alice Perceval, as well as musicians and writers.
In her fascinating book, Brenda Niall traces the family biography from 1840s Melbourne with convict heiress Emma Mills, who married William, the son of Victoria’s first Chief Justice; her daughter, Emma Minnie, and son-in-law, Arthur Merric Boyd; their children, who grew up at Open Country, Murrumbeena, and Boyd grand-children, all of whom were famous, especially Arthur.
See the Table of Contents of this book at: https://web.archive.org/web/20060618070355/http://www.mup.unimelb.edu.au/catalogue/0-522-84871-0.html.
This book is so well-written and hard to put down and features many photos of the family and their homes, as well as colour-plates of their artworks!
Open Country, now obliterated by Melbourne suburbia, was the meeting place for many prominent Australian artists in the 1940s and 1950s. See : http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/boyd-familys-murrumbeena-gatherings-a-fount-of-inspiration-for-australian-artists-20141124-11ss2n.html.
Another famous Boyd landmark , which can still be visited, is Arthur Boyd’s property at Bundanon, on the Shoalhaven River, near Nowra, which he bought in 1979 and donated to the Australian people in 1993 and which we visited years ago. It is well worth making the effort to visit, even though opening times are limited and there is a long narrow drive in. It’s wonderful to see his house and studios and the landscape, which inspired him.
It also includes a huge art collection of over 3 800 items, with more than 1 300 works by Arthur Boyd, over 1 200 works from five generations of the Boyd family dynasty and a number of works by Arthur Boyd’s contemporaries, such as Sidney Nolan, John Perceval, Joy Hester and Charles Blackman, from which regular exhibitions are held, as well as hosting an artist-in-residence program each year. See: https://bundanon.com.au/ for visiting times.
Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis and the Art Gallery of New South Wales 2000
I love Olive Cotton’s work! Olive Cotton (1911-2003) was one of Australia’s leading twentieth century photographers, whose career spanned six decades from the 1930s to the 1980s. The front cover of the book shows her delightfully titled photograph: Only to Taste the Warmth, the Light, the Wind 1939: This small book, which was produced to accompany an exhibition of her work by the Art Gallery of NSW in 2000, contains photographs from the 1930s to mid 1940s, when she worked with her first husband, Max Dupain, at his studio in Sydney, as well as work from the 1980s, when she revisited her negatives and her passion for ‘drawing with light’. I love this photograph of a dandelion head, titled: Seedhead 1990 from page 59.Her photographs display her great love for nature, as seen in her landscapes and flower studies; her keen observational powers; her wide range of subject matter; her fluidity of style, moving freely between Pictorialism, the style perfected by her predecessor, Harold Cazneaux (see above), and Modernism; and her great love of the photographic medium.
Her photographs are so beautiful and almost like paintings eg Interior (My Room) 1933, shown above, from page 13, and Cardboard Design 1935, shown below from page 25:
I also love Tea Cup Ballet 1935, a different take on the same subject matter of Margaret Preston’s Implement Blue 1927, shown below, from page 24;
Jean-Lorraine By Candlelight 1943, from page 37;
and The Sleeper 1939, shown below from page 31:
Margaret Olley by Barry Pearce 1996
Another famous Australian artist, Margaret Olley (1923-2011) came to fame from the 1950s and 1960s on and is still very popular today. The book cover features one of her early works: Portrait in the Mirror 1948. The photo below is of one of her very famous paintings: Afternoon Interior with Cornflowers 1990, from page 103. I adore her still-lifes and rich, cluttered interiors, full of colour, vases of flowers and vintage objects and furniture. I just love the colours in her painting Chianti Bottle and Pomegranates 1994-1995 (photograph from page 112): This book traces her life, her travels and her work, reproduced in the numerous full colour plates in this lovely book. The mask in the photo below, painted in her Interior IV 1970, page 59 of the book, bears testament to her three trips to Papua New Guinea between 1965 and 1968.
I love the lemons tumbling out of the basket in Lemons 1964, the photo from page 51. They were such comfortable homey interiors too like Yellow Tablecloth with Cornflowers 1995, photograph taken from page 126 of the book. In fact, I could own any one of her works. They are all so beautiful, as well as probably being very pricey these days! Another favourite for its rich warm colours is Clivias 1984, photograph from page 97 of the book. I just love that kelim!!!Fortunately, she left her possessions to the Tweed Regional Gallery at Murwillimbah, so we were able to visit the Margaret Olley Art Centre during our recent trip to Brisbane, a wonderful treat! The first photo below is The Chinese Screen 1994-1995 from page 10, while the last photo is Yellow Room with Lupins II 1994-1995 from page 122. The centre also includes a recreation of key areas of her famous home studio at 48 Duxford Street, Paddington, Sydney : the Hat Factory (living room, dining room and kitchen) and Yellow Room, all built to scale, with original architectural elements like windows, doors and fireplaces, and over 20 000 items, collected by Margaret over many years as subject matter for her paintings. See: http://artgallery.tweed.nsw.gov.au/VisitUs and http://artgallery.tweed.nsw.gov.au/MargaretOlleyArtCentre.
Finally, some books about some contemporary artists among the Baby Boomers, all of whom have a deep affection for Australia and its amazing flora and fauna!
Criss Canning: The Pursuit of Beauty by David Thomas 2008
The book cover above features Still Life with Poppy Cedric Morris 2007.
Criss Canning’s art is very similar in style, talent and subject matter to Margaret Olley. In fact, Margaret Olley was a close friend and supportive mentor and in 1999, Margaret actually bought one of Criss’s paintings : Waratah in a Green Jug 1999, seen below from page 139 in the book and donated it to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. See: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4417688/olleys-living-legacy/ and https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/61.2000/.
I first discovered Criss Canning, when she visited my garden club in Armidale with her husband David Glenn, of Lambley Nursery fame. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/03/08/favourite-gardens-regularly-open-to-the-public-nursery-gardens-in-victoria/.
Her love of native Australian flora can be seen in her painting titled: Winter Banksia 2001 from page 155.This beautiful coffee table book was written and published to coincide with her retrospective exhibition at Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in 2007 and it certainly does justice to all her wonderful sumptuous paintings with full page colour plates in glossy paper. Below is another ode to Australian flora: Gum Blossom 1995, photo from page 123.David Thomas traces her life from her birth in 1947, exactly one month before my husband (!), and childhood in Laburnum, near Blackburn, a suburb of Melbourne, which was then rural acreage; her struggles as a single mother of two young children; her sojourn on the island of Rhodes in Greece, inspired by Charmaine Clift; her marriage and life with David Glenn in Ascot, near Ballarat, and her later more minimalist works, influenced by her love of Japanese art, seen in Freesia’s and Japanese Tea Service 1996 from page 175 and the geometric designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.I adore her beautiful floral studies: their rich colour; bold composition; strong patterns and dramatic contrast and flowing textile backdrops, as can be seen in her paintings titled: Black and White 1999, the first photo below from page 77 and Arthur Merric Boyd Coffee Set 2003, the second photo below from page 160.I love her talented portrayal of metal surfaces and her patterned backgrounds, as seen in the first photo below: Silver Reflections 2003 from page 162 and the silver tray in the second photo below: Native Flowers and Silver Tray 2001 from page 149,As well as her wonderful sense of colour, as seen in Poppies 1987 from page 43. To see more of her work, visit her site at: http://crisscanning.com.au/.
Salvatore Zofrea: Days of Summer by Anne Ryan 2009
This lovely book features the work of Salvatore Zoffrea, an Italian-Australian printmaker, who produces beautiful woodcuts of Australian flora and the bush. The book cover features his woodcut: Mountain Devil Grevillea with Eggs and Bacon Pea, Native Iris and Kunzea, while the photo below shows Bowerbirds with Native Irises and Eggs and Bacon Pea from page 43. Like Criss Canning, he was also influenced heavily by Japanese art, especially its traditional Japanese woodcuts, as well as European art. I love his delightful work: Tea Tree with Bronze Pigeon in the photo below, taken from page 39. I love his attention to detail, the busyness of his designs, his use of colour or lack of colour, his sense of wonder at the beauty and abundance of the Australian bush and his underlying message of the importance of conservation and sustainability. The photo below is a closeup of a double page spread, page 62 and 63, featuring his large woodcut, 3 metres long, titled: Bellbirds at Kurrajong, which was made by carving nine blocks of marine plywood and was his artistic response to a local incident at Mandeni, near Merimbula, where a bellbird population was culled due to their destruction of eucalyptus trees. Little did we realize that five years later we would be living in the area! We felt so lucky to see these wonderful prints by chance when passing through Wagga Wagga in 2010. See: http://www.wagga.nsw.gov.au/art-gallery/exhibitions-landing/past-exhibitions/exhibitions-2010/salvatore-zofrea-days-of-summer); http://mrag.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ZofreaProposal_sml.pdf and http://mrag.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ZofreaEdKit_11_01_10.pdf.
Byron Portfolio: An Artist’s Response to the Byron Shire by Karen Wynn-Moylan 1989Another environmental artist, whose work I love is Karen Wynn-Moylan, also known as Karena Wynn-Moylan. Her book cover features her watercolour, View From Honeysuckle to Tallows Beach, a familiar scene from coastal holidays in the area many years ago.Karen works in a variety of media: watercolours, oils, acrylics and pastels – to record and celebrate the beauty of the unique flora and fauna of her subtropical home environment in the Byron Shire, as well as encourage an appreciation of the environment and the need for conservation. Her love of her local rainforest can be seen in the photo above of her watercolour painting, The Clearing, page 43, while her pastel, Sunsoaked, on page 7, portrays a subject matter typical of the local area! I love The Flowering Beach, a mixed media painting on page 21, the fine dots of colour so typical of the Australian bush. Nasturtiums (Mullumbimby Laneway), labelled The Nasturtians in the book on page 29 and seen in the photo below, reminds me of our holidays at Hat Head with its old-fashioned dirt lane ways, lined with bougainvillea and frangipanis, wooden sheds and garages and leaning wooden fences, trailing with nasturtiums.
For a look at her work, see: http://www.karenawynn-moylan.bravehost.com/. As a Tasmanian, I really loved her new oil: Summer Above the Snowline: Mt Wellington, at: http://www.karenawynn-moylan.bravehost.com/newwork.html.
The final artist in this post, Michael Leunig, also has much to say about our treatment of the environment, as well as each other, as can be seen in the following book:
The Michael Leunig Collection: Favourite Paintings and Drawings by Michael Leunig 1991Born in 1945, Michael Leunig is a much-loved and well-known cartoonist with delightfully quirky characters, who highlight the absurdities of life, and wonderfully whimsical poetry. The book cover features his well-known cartoon, The Kiss 1985.His work is just so much fun and he addresses serious issues with a humorous light-hearted approach, which is very effective, as seen in the photo above of his cartoon, Plastic Shopping Bags in Autumn 1989 from page 22, though we are only just starting to address the issue in 2017! I love his characters, Mr Curly and Vasco Pyjama, as well as the small things of life: his ducks, houses, teapots and angels. The photo above is Mr Curly Comes Home 1973, from page 30, while the colour photograph below is the book cover for The Travelling Leunig, published by Penguin in 1990, and reproduced on page 112 of this book. This book is a taster to some of his most famous drawings. We own a number of his books, and his work also appears regularly in the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as a free annual calendar. For more on his work, see: http://www.leunig.com.au/.
I will finish this post with one of his delightful prayers from his website :
We rejoice and give thanks for earthworms,
bees, ladybirds and broody hens;
for humans tending their gardens, talking to animals,
cleaning their homes and singing to themselves;
for rising of the sap, the fragrance of growth,
the invention of the wheelbarrow and the existence of the teapot,
we give thanks. We celebrate and give thanks.