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image icon 'Landscape at Pentecost', 1929

'Landscape at Pentecost', 1929
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This is a landscape painting made in 1929 by Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984), which measures 83.7 cm x 111.8 cm. The dominant image is one of a road that runs through an undulating countryside. The large red-brown expanse of the road tapers down from the crest of a hill, and up and over another rise to disappear again behind a low hill. There are a few buildings and several stands of trees scattered about, some fields, perhaps an orchard, and a white signpost that leans at a precarious angle just off the centre of the work. The image is dominated by design features that include the dark lines that outline the road and hills, the angular shapes (reminiscent of areas of cracked earth in red clay soil) that break up and fracture the flat surface of the road, and the patterned brush work that has been used to represent the different crops in the green fields.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a work of art by Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984), who is regarded as Australia’s most significant early modern artist and one of the first artists in Australia to respond to European Post-Impressionism - as a young artist, Cossington Smith was exposed to modern art partly through association with other young Australian experimental artists such as Roy de Maistre (1894-1968) and Roland Wakelin (1887-1971); one of the new ideas that appealed to these Sydney-based artists was synchromism, painting based on the generation of form by pure colour as opposed to conventional highlight and shadow devices; throughout her working life Cossington Smith explored the essential idea that colours and their relationships with each other can express form and light; she once said ‘My aim has always been to express form in colour - colour vibrant in light’
  • demonstrates how Cossington Smith applied colour theory in her paintings - in ‘Landscape at Pentecost’, the artist has applied the basic principle of warm colours advancing and cool colours receding; the foreground road is in warm tones, the middle distance is in cool-greens, and purple-blues have been used to define the most distant elements of the view; single strokes of pure colour have been laid side by side in the green fields areas (she never mixed colours on the palette and once strokes or blocks of colour were laid onto the surface of the painting they were never reworked); all of these elements help to consolidate the overall ‘colour energy’ of the image
  • serves as an excellent example of the use, by modernist artists of the early 20th century, of visual devices to flatten pictorial space - devices that can be found in this work include painting bold outlines around the edges of things, ‘tipping’ things upward (like the exaggerated vertical direction of the road in the middle distance), adopting an aerial perspective (the viewer is positioned as if hovering above the road), omitting shadows, and using brush marks to make visible surface patterns and thick or wide brushes to eliminate details
  • demonstrates, in its design-like style, the particular influence of European modern art, particularly that of Vincent van Gogh (1853-90), on Cossington Smith’s work - on her return from a trip to Europe in 1912-14 she resumed her painting studies at a private art school in Sydney run by the painter and teacher Anthony Dattilo Rubbo (1870-1955), where she saw reproductions of the work of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and others; this had an immediate effect on Cossington Smith and fellow students Roland Wakelin and Roy de Maistre, who all adopted a new way of painting that involved using pure (as opposed to over-mixed) colours, stippled or patterned brush work and a blocky arrangement of forms
  • presents an artistic interpretation of a rural area about to undergo change - the road featured in this painting is Bannockburn Road near Pentecost Avenue; the small settlement of Pentecost was at the time a farming district of Sydney, and has since been overtaken by the city sprawl.