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The work of Margaret Preston

In our small regional town of Scone we have an organisation called ADFAS, Australian Decorative Fine Arts Society, which is not as posh as it sounds. Really!The branch here was formed in 1991 to promote an interest in the arts and 9 lectures are given each year, 6 by visiting lecturers from the UK.

In June the lecture was delivered by Tom Thompson who is a publisher of Australian literature and a valuer of all manner of items that have artistic, cultural and historical significance.

His topic was the work of Margaret Preston, an influential Australian artist of the early 20th century. Tom highlighted his talk with many images both of her work and her life. What tickled my fancy was that she lied about her age all her life and when she died in her 80s nobody had any idea and thought she was 10 years younger.

She was fortunate to have a wealthy and supportive husband so she was able to pursue her creativity freely. What also impressed me was the quantity of her output and it made me think back to Jen Storer’s interview with Tania McCartney. She produced hand coloured woodcuts and prints and many of these can be found in editions of Ure Smith’s ‘Art In Australia’. She filled volumes of these for the publisher while at the same time producing special boxed editions, making rugs, pottery and ceramics as well as painting portraits.

She experimented continually and fortunately many of her works are held by the Art Gallery of NSW. She was a contemporary of Thea Proctor and Grace Cossington Smith but much more commercially successful.

The image at the end of this post is for all you illustrators, snapped on my recent trip. At the airport in Paris a girl about 12 was busily sketching La Tour Eiffel referring to her I-phone and seeking constant advice from her father about the problems she was having with the base. She persisted and scratched away till it was complete.