Margaret PRESTON, Still life: fruit (Arnhem Land motif) Enlarge 1 /1

Margaret PRESTON

Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 1875 – Mosman, New South Wales, Australia 1963

  • Germany and France 1904-07
  • France, England and Ireland 1912-19

Still life: fruit (Arnhem Land motif) 1941 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed and dated l.r., oil "41 M. PRESTON"
Dimensions: 43.0 h x 53.3 w cm Frame 61.5 h x 71.5 w x 6.5 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976
Accession No: NGA 76.16
Image rights: © Margaret Rose Preston Estate. Licensed by Viscopy

In Still life: fruit (Arnhem Land motif) Margaret Preston used the restricted palette of ochres, black and white of Tiwi artists and the shields of the Gungandji and Yidinjdji tribes. She simplified the forms of the fruit, nuts and basket to basic patterns, arranging them against a uniform brown background. She appropriated aspects of Australian indigenous art with a view to creating an Australian national imagery, incorporating a dot and dash approach suggestive of Aboriginal art.

Preston’s first article promoting Australian Indgenous art. ‘The Indigenous art of Australia’, was published in 1925. In this she argued that a national art would only develop from paying attention to Aboriginal art. In her own art she borrowed from here and there without making specific reference to the work of individual artists. In adapting aspects of Australian Indigenous art she also focussed on arrangements of native flowers and fruit.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra