Neutral Bay, New South Wales, Australia 1892 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1984
Four panels for a screen: loquat tree, gum and wattle trees, waterfall, picnic in a gully
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on cardboard
The panels of this magnificent screen depict subjects from the artist’s garden and surrounding bush landscape. Cossington Smith was especially pleased with the third panel. As she said in an interview with Alan Roberts: ‘There used to be a waterfall along there … called Lovers’ Leap … a lovely proper one … and I did a painting … with the length of the waterfall on the panel … I think it came off rather well; rocks and waterfall and the bush.’ This screen was commissioned by a collector in the United Kingdom who rejected it and acquired The gully instead. At the time the artist was disappointed and vowed never to do another commission. Many years later she was delighted when the work was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
A thread that runs through the work of Grace Cossington Smith is her passionate engagement with the world in and around her home-base of Turramurra in Sydney’s North Shore, where she lived for most of her life. This is apparent in Four panels for a screen: loquat tree, gum and wattle trees, waterfall, picnic in a gully, which also conveys her feeling for the natural world and sensitivity as a colourist. The first two panels incorporate flowers and trees from her garden, including the glowing yellow of wattle, while the second two depict a waterfall and a gully in nearby bushland. Cossington Smith was especially pleased with the third panel in the way that the drop of the waterfall corresponds compositionally with the length of the panel. A unifying aspect of the panels is the application of touches of luminous, vibrant colour.
The work was commissioned by Gladys MacDermot, a collector who had admired and bought one of Cossington Smith’s Bridge paintings on a visit to Sydney. The four panels were displayed individually in an exhibition in 1932 at the Walker’s Galleries in London before being made into a screen. Despite favourable reviews, MacDermot did not approve of the panels and they were left with Cossington Smith’s sister Mabel, who lived in England. At the time the artist was disappointed and vowed never to do another commission. Many years later, in 1976 (in the artist’s lifetime), this strikingly beautiful screen was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014