Burnside, South Australia, Australia 1891 – Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 1951
1927 - 1928
London, Greater London, England
Materials & Technique: prints, ink; paper linocut, printed in colour inks, from five blocks (black, yellow ochre, brick red, grey-green, cobalt blue) Support: thin cream oriental laid paper mounted on cream cardboard
Manufacturer's Mark: no manufacturer's mark
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression
Edition: edition of 50; plus additional colour proofs
Both Dorrit Black and Eveline Syme studied in London at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art under the tuition of Claude Flight, and there began to produce the linocuts for which they are best known. They learned from Flight to depict their subjects within geometrical patterns of opposing rhythms, using harmonious colour schemes.
Linocuts allowed Black to explore abstraction and to see form in a new way. By eliminating detail and emphasising the important parts of the subject, she was able more effectively to communicate a sensation. The formal elements in Music have been pared down. Four figures dance wildly to the music of the piano player seated in the upper left-hand corner. All the figures are printed in ochre and details of clothing and facial features are absent. The movement is emphasised by the limited palette of four clear colours within dark outlines and the curved lines crisscrossing the background plane from either side. Black wanted us to experience the exhilaration of her dancers as they abandoned themselves to the music. Her inspiration for the linocut came from a concert which she attended at the Dominion Arts Club in London. It reflects the influence of Flight and also makes reference to Matisse’s Dance of 1910. Music may also be read as an expression of the artist’s intense joy at the beginning of her journey into a world of new and exhilarating ideas that were to shape her development as a modern artist.
As Stephen Coppel has observed, in Syme’s Skating, made soon after she had enrolled in Flight’s linocut class, ‘the geometrical construction of the composition is conceived as a system of rhythmic lines and intersecting arcs’.1
Helen Maxwell, 2002.
1 Stephen Coppel, Linocuts of the Machine Age, London: Scolar Press, 1995, p.66
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002