Olive COTTON, The way through the trees Enlarge 1 /1


Australia 1911 – 2003

The way through the trees 1938 Creation Notes: printed 1938
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph

Primary Insc: Signed l.r. recto pencil, "Olive Cotton". Dated l.l. recto pencil, ..."'38". Titled l.l. recto pencil, "The Way Through The Trees".
Dimensions: printed image 29.6 h x 29.0 w cm sheet 32.2 h x 31.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of the artist 1987
Accession No: NGA 87.1459

Cotton stridently maintained throughout her life that she wasn’t ‘committed to anything’ in relation to photographic orthodoxy or fashion: ‘I was committed to what interested me.’ With its shafts of light and descriptive study of a forest of spotted gums found near Ulladulla on the south coast of New South Wales, this exceptional landscape appears at first glance like a classic pictorialist view of the Australian bush, drawing on her experience as a member of the pictorialist Sydney Camera Circle. But typical of Cotton’s best pictures, this landscape merges Pictorialism’s stylistic and formal codes with those of a cosmopolitan modernist sensibility: Cotton pays particular attention to the similarly angled tree trunks, as well as the all-over pattern created by the spotted gums and the dapples of light. Not bound or hemmed in by dogma, Cotton created a view of being completely immersed in the landscape.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra