Margaret PRESTON, Dry river bed NT. 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

Dry river bed NT. 1953 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, stencil, printed in colour inks, from one hand-cut paper stencil Support: thick black cardboard
Manufacturer's Mark: no manufacturer's mark.
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression
Edition: edition of 3?

Primary Insc: signed and dated lower left on printed image in pen and ink, 'Margaret Preston / 53'. not titled.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions.
Tertiary Insc: no inscriptions.
Dimensions: printed image 30.0 h x 34.8 w cm sheet 34.0 h x 37.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2000
Accession No: NGA 2000.313
Image rights: © Margaret Rose Preston Estate. Licensed by Viscopy
  • Purchased from Macquarie Galleries, Sydney [label on verso].
  • Private collection.
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from 'Fine Australian and international paintings and Australia 2000'. Sydney: Sotheby's (Australia), 15 August 2000, lot 248, (illustrated).

As the leading protagonist of modernism during the 1930s, Margaret Preston created many paintings and prints that emphasised strong design and simplified forms. The stencil prints she produced when aged in her late seventies distil these principles into works such as Dry river bed, NT., an aerial view of a serpentine riverbed carved into the rocky outback landscape.

Preston rejects the earthy tones usually associated with the desert landscape and instead shows a night-time scene, emphasised by a cool palette of black, white and grey gouache, which she daubed through a paper stencil onto black card.The deep black shadows contrast with the moonlit riverbed, while the composition is held together by areas of unpainted black card that define the structure of the rocky terrain.

The paint is applied with a vigorous dotting action, inspired by bark painting, which gives the composition a distinctive texture and energy. Preston admired Indigenous Australian and traditional Chinese modes of representing the landscape, and their influence can be seen in her use of the stencil technique and aerial viewpoints in many of her later works. This is one of 126 prints by Preston in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008