Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984) Blue Glass, c.1927
Lot 4
Grace Cossington Smith
(1892-1984)
Blue Glass, c.1927
Sold for AU$ 256,200 (US$ 193,967) inc. premium

Lot Details
Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984)
Blue Glass, c.1927
signed and dated twice 'G. Cossington Smith / G. Cossington Smith / '37' upper right and lower left; inscribed March 72 / Still Life with Blue Glass / frame 208 / no. 8' verso
oil on board
46.5 x 36.0cm (18 5/16 x 14 3/16in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE
    Macquarie Galleries, Sydney (label attached verso)
    Private collection, New South Wales, acquired from the above in 1972
    Australian, International & Contemporary Art, Christie's, Melbourne, 6 May 2003, lot 8
    Private collection, Perth

    EXHIBITED
    A Group of Seven, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 26 March - 5 April 1930, cat. 26
    Exhibition of Australian Art under the auspices of The Society of Artists, Perth, 8 - 24 March 1932
    Grace Cossington Smith, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 21 June - 10 July 1972, cat. 16, as 'Still Life with Blue Glass'
    Style and Synthesis: nine Australian moderns, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Perth, 24 August - 22 October 2008

    LITERATURE
    'Women Artists: Meritorious Work', The West Australian, Perth, 18 March 1932, p. 7
    Daniel Thomas, Grace Cossington Smith, Sydney, 1973, p. 72
    Bruce James, Grace Cossington Smith, Sydney, 1990, pl. 42, p. 86 (illus.), 162


    "My chief interest, I think, has always been colour, but not flat crude colour, it must be colour within colour, it has to shine; light must be in it." Grace Cossington Smith, 1965. 1

    Grace Cossington Smith is one of Australia's most important 20th-century artists. Best known for her iconic paintings and drawings that depicted the Sydney Harbour Bridge in construction from the late 1920s, and her remarkable interiors of the 1950s, it was also through her still lifes, interiors, portraits and landscapes that Cossington Smith quietly ushered Modernism into Australian art history.

    From 1926 until the late 1930s Cossington Smith created some of her most ambitious and experimental work. Blue Glass belongs to this dynamic time when experimentation transitioned into artistic maturity. The work was included by Cossington Smith in the 1930 exhibition A Group of Seven which was held at Sydney's Macquarie Galleries. This important exhibition also included work by other Australian Modernists Dorrit Black, Enid Cambridge, Grace Crowley, Roy de Maistre, Roland Wakelin and Frank Weitzel. While the title and subject of the painting may derive from everyday domestic items, it is the stippled paint application, radiating bands of colour and structural complexity that make Blue Glass remarkable. Geometry, line, form, colour, tone and light all intersect to form a kaleidoscopic composition of concave and convex rhythms, concentric circles, reflection and translucency.

    Three Art Deco period lemonade glasses are arranged on a circular tray, alongside a pitcher and a tea bell. The objects have been positioned at the top of the tray. Cossington Smith adopts an unconventional viewpoint, allowing us to peer directly into and through the empty glassware and observe the forms behind. The bulbous shape of the pitcher and solidity of the tea bell provide a counterweight to the lightness of the glasses, their reflections on the tray occupying much of the lower third of the work. The diagonal thrust and close cropping of the image create an instability; a sense that at any stage these objects may slide from the picture plane.

    Cossington Smith was a sophisticated colourist and Blue Glass is almost entirely composed of the contrasting hues of yellow and violet. She had explored this palette extensively in related works including Krinkly Konks Sleeping, 1927-28, private collection, and The Bridge in Building, 1929-30, collection of the National Gallery of Australia, the latter a homage to the sandstone, steel and jacaranda of Sydney's landscape. Other related works from the period include Things on an iron tray on the floor, c.1928, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Teacups: the Harlequin set, c.1928, Art Gallery of Western Australia. The loose brushwork, lighter palette, yet finely balanced composition demonstrated in Blue Glass also precedes two extraordinary works - Sea Wave, 1931, private collection, and Bulli Pier, South Coast, 1931, private collection.

    Cossington Smith's body of work was unprecedented in the history of Australian art. She channelled her Modernist vision through everything she encountered. Blue Glass epitomises this pursuit of the radical in the domestic, an example of Cossington Smith's rare ability to illuminate the world around her.

    Beatrice Gralton



    1. Grace Cossington Smith, interview by Hazel de Berg, 16 August 1965, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, transcript, p.1484
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