Grace Cossington Smith and Margaret Preston are irresistible exemplars in the modern Australian artistic landscape. Cossington Smith’s ‘The Sock Knitter’, painted in 1915, celebrates its centenary this year and is now acknowledged as Australia’s first modernist work. The vibrant image holds a quiet strength – a meditation on the effort by women to come to terms with a war being fought thousands of miles away.
In contrast Preston observes her local street-scape and beach in Sydney during WWII with a sombre and monochromatic palette. She depicts the bleak threat of a feared invasion in these paintings which contrast to her many works of local flora and fauna.
The works can be viewed in the same space at the NGV’s Australian Artists at War exhibition at the Potter gallery.