When it comes to classic Australian art, like a lot of people who aren't art heads, I've tended to limit my thinking to those iconic and quintessentially Australian landscape paintings. No, not Ken Done, more Fredrick McCubbin's 'On the Wallaby Track', Tom Roberts 'Bailed up'', Sydney Nolan's Ned Kelly or some of Albert Namatjira's many works for example.
'Bailed up' by Tom Roberts. Image: Wikipedia Commons
The Sydney Moderns exhibition aims to correct this misconception. It presents one of the liveliest and most distinctive periods in the history of Australian art. Dating from the first half of the 20th century, many of the works feature Sydney icons such as the Harbour Bridge but they also depict life in a thriving metropolis with its trams, trains and new fangled Department Stores like David Jones.
The exhibition is structured around five themes: Colour, light and colour-music; Modern life, modern city; Still life as laboratory table; Landscapes of modernity; and Paths to Australian abstraction. Sydney's more progressive and experimental artists explored the new modernity through works of abstraction which reflect the emerging new patterns of Sydney's urban landscape.
There are more than 180 works on display dating from 1915 till the early 1940s. Artists include Margaret Preston, Roy de Maistre, Roland Wakelin, Grace Cossington Smith, Thea Proctor, Grace Crowley, Ralph Balson, Rah Fizelle, Frank and Margel Hinder, Margo and Gerald Lewers, Dorrit Black, Olive Cotton, Max Dupain and Harold Cazneaux.