Smith & Singer

Grace Cossington Smith: The Window 1956

November 12, 2014

Regarded as one of Australia’s foremost modernist artists, Grace Cossington Smith was instrumental in introducing post-impressionism to her home country.  Born 20 April 1982, in Sydney’s Neutral Bay, Smith came from a socially conventional background.  She was the second child of well-to-do English immigrants.  Her mother, also named Grace, was a cultured woman with a love of music and languages; her father, Ernest, was appointed Crown Solicitor of New South Wales in 1890 and later established his own firm.

An early modernist, her fascination with light and colour and her unerring interest in what she saw around her developed throughout the many phases of her work, culminating in the luminous interiors she painted in the 1950s and 1960s.  Often giving a glimpse of the ordinary suburban home, Smith’s subjects varied from significant global events to quintessentially Australian scenes, capturing a time and a place.  As an artist Smith was a strong supporter of modernism, credited with leading post-impressionist movements in Australia.  However it was not until later in her life that she was adequately recognised and in 1973 made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services to Australian art.  That same year a major retrospective of her work toured Australia, cementing her role as a truly brilliant artist.  Her paintings are widely treasured, with works exhibited in major galleries throughout the country.

Grace Cossington Smith’s (1892-1984) highly-acclaimed masterpiece, The Window (1956) is one the largest compositions from Grace Cossington Smith’s shimmering interiors painted in a pointillist manner and is the last of this scale remaining in private ownership.  The companion paintings are Interior with Blue Painting (1956, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne) and Interior in Yellow (1962-1964, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra).

Grace Cossington Smith employed a variety of techniques, largely characterised by square brush strokes and bright colours.  Sotheby’s Australia will offer one of Grace Cossington Smith’s acclaimed masterpieces, The Window (estimate $250,000-350,000, lot 14) at its forthcoming sale of Important Australiana & International Art.  The Window is distinctly Australian with a central doorway opening out to a tall gum tree and surrounding native flora.  The foreground is awash with warm tones, showing the artist’s surrounds.  The painting is a spectacular example of the artist’s much loved scenes of doorways and windows, with the backgrounding blue skies drawing the viewer to look beyond the initially captivating interior.  The artfully constructed composition of yellow, purple, blue and green immediately engages and shows Grace Cossington Smith’s mastery of colour.

Grace Cossington Smith was a pioneer of Australian modernist painting. From the mid-1960s until her death in 1984, she was a much-admired elder stateswoman of Australian art, and her legacy includes some of the prepossessing paintings of her times.

> view e-Catalogue
> view catalogue entry The Window 1956


The Window 1956
oil on composition board
122.2 x 91.5 cm
Estimate $250,000-350,000


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