Molong Show 1946 also known as 'The fairground' signed and dated 'M. PRESTON. 1946' lower left tempera on canvas 42.0 x 53.0cm (16 9/16 x 20 7/8in).
PROVENANCE D.C. Dyring, until 1980 Australian Paintings, Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 5 November 1980, lot 722, titled Country Carnival Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne Private collection, Melbourne Niagara Galleries, Melbourne The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired in 1998
EXHIBITED Society of Artists' Annual Exhibition, Education Department, Sydney, 24 August 11 September 1946, cat. no. 185 Australian art: Colonial to Modern, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 15-26 April 1985, cat. no. 77, titled The fairground Bridget McDonnell Gallery, titled The fairground Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, titled The fairground Blue chip choice, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, March - April 1998, cat. no. 24, titled The fairground Margaret Preston: Art and Life, touring exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 July 23 October 2005; 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 Australian Art: Colonial to Modern, exh. cat., Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 1985, cat. no. 77 (illus.) Roger Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1987/2005, p. 351 [2005 edition] Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, pp.184 (illus.), 185, 285
In a long career fuelled by seemingly unfailing energy Margaret Preston observed her world keenly, and with intense interest. She was not an artist of 'sensitive nuances and gentle harmonies', but rather one who presented her audiences with her emphatic view of what it was in the mid-twentieth century to be Australian. 1
Preston's Australianness was deeply informed. She was an inveterate traveller both overseas and nationally. With her husband Bill, she explored Australia well into later life, not in cushioned comfort but frequently journeying on endless dirt roads and camping out under the stars.
During the early 1940s Margaret Preston's painting shifted from her more stylised works and subject-matter of the 1920s and 1930s particularly her still lifes of Australian native flowers for which she is so widely-known to more loosely painted observations of landscapes and townscapes and views of crowds or smaller groups of people bathing in the sea, enjoying picnics and attending country shows. In her mid sixties and still driven by her search for the 'national, spiritual and characteristic features of this country', Australian scenery and the activities of Australians became a new and inspiring source of visual material, as she observed life in Sydney as well as during travels through regional and remote New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. 2
Margaret Preston's depiction of the Molong show 1946 is painted in a mannered, slightly naïve style, characteristic of many of her works from the 1940s in which, with an often subdued palette and rapid observation, the artist presented snapshots of war time and post war Australia. In this view of a country fair in the small central western New South Wales town of Molong, Preston has taken the unusual step of expanding the image as if seen through a wide-angle lens, and observed from a slightly elevated position. The image is crowded and lively, almost as if the artist did not want to omit any of the many disparate activities taking place. In the background there are fairground rides, including a fast-moving merry-go-round, and side shows. Flags flutter, parents accompany children, mothers push their babies in prams, and several dogs and a clutch of foreground chickens add to the sense of noise, rising dust and bustling atmosphere. Absolutely central to the painting is the circular tent in which is presented for the public's entertainment an x-rated show, advertised by a bizarre trio a naked female flanked by another in a gown, and a skeletal figure. Two figures adopt strange stances near a turbaned man who assails a naked woman with a sword. At the front of the tent a young girl, oblivious to these odd activities, is intrigued by a small, tethered monkey on a raised platform.
It is in works such as this painting Molong show, and related genre scenes of everyday Australia in the 1940s, that Margaret Preston again shows us her remarkable capacity to accept the challenges of new subject matter. These works present yet another aspect of the artist's expansive oeuvre and life-long pursuit of a definitive Australian culture.
1 Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 23 September, 1953, quoted in Roger Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1987, p. 25 2 Margaret Preston quoted in Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, p. 174
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