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image icon 'Mirmande', 1928

'Mirmande', 1928
Art Gallery of South Australia


This is a landscape in oils, measuring 81.0 cm x 100.5 cm, painted in 1928 by Grace Crowley (1890-1979). The main feature of the painting is a walled town set on a hilltop and overlooked by a large mountain. There are several clumps of trees and groups of houses in the foreground of the work. There is very little detail in the painting - the shape and form of each of the trees, buildings and hills has been simplified, giving them a geometrical appearance. The overall colour scheme is one of soft cool greens (trees and grasses) and warm brown and orange accents (roofs and walls). The dark greens and browns used for the stand of trees at the left, the shadows on the right of the larger mountain and the trees in the right foreground, help to accentuate the structure and composition of the work.

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a painting by Grace Crowley - Crowley was a member of a group of artists who pioneered abstract and kinetic art in Sydney from the 1940s to the 1960s; this group included Ralph Balson (1890-1964), Rah Fizelle (1891-1964), Frank Hinder (1906-92) and Margel Hinder (1906-95); in 1926 Crowley travelled to Europe with fellow artist Anne Dangar (1887-1951) to observe and study modern art trends at first hand in France; in 1932 she began teaching at the Modern Art Centre, Sydney (established by the leading modernist artist Dorrit Black, 1891-1951); in this same year she also established her own teaching studio (with Rah Fizelle), which became an important centre for the introduction of modernist ideas from Europe
  • records a significant event in the artistic development of the artist - in 1927 both Crowley and Dangar studied in France with prominent modernist teacher André Lhote (1885-1962); from this experience they gained some familiarity with Cubist and post-Cubist trends in painting; they were also strongly influenced by the theories of Post Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) as they related to geometric organisation, particularly the cube, the cylinder and elements of 'dynamic symmetry'; in 1928 as part of their studies with Lhote, Crowley, Dangar and Dorrit Black (who had joined them in France) attended a summer school at Mirmande, a picturesque medieval hilltop village in the south of France; all three made paintings of the town
  • shows how the artist applied an understanding of Cubist painting principles - Crowley initially had problems in painting this work, but commented later 'I decided to treat it more like a solid piece of sculpture; therefore my palette must be severe, earth colours if possible. The hill, which had refused to become solid, I thought of now as a sphere, trees pointing up towards the church on top of the hill were cylinders, and the buildings cubes'
  • demonstrates the importance of composition in Cubist-style art - through her studies with Lhote and another French teacher, Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), Crowley was introduced to the traditions of pictorial structure that were used extensively in European art from the Renaissance to the modern era; she learned to construct pictures according to principles of balance and visual relationships; in 'Mirmande', Crowley used significant lines of direction to create a sense of everything being unified, most being diagonals (the edge of the hill and roofs on the middle left, the town wall, the profiles of the mountains and the upper edges of the trees at the lower right); these diagonal movements help to create a sense of dynamic action.