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|Title:||Grace Crowley's contribution to Australian modernism and geometric abstraction|
|Keywords:||Crowley, Grace, 1890-1979 -- Criticism and interpretation.|
Women painters -- Australia.
Modernism (Art) -- Australia.
Painting, Abstract -- Australia.
Constructivism (Art) -- Australia.
|Publisher:||University of Sydney.|
Department of Art History and Theory, Faculty of Arts
|Abstract:||Grace Crowley was one of the leading innovators of geometric abstraction in Australia. When she returned to Australia in 1930 she had thoroughly mastered the complex mathematics and geometry of the golden section and dynamic symmetry that had become one of the frameworks for modernism. Crowley, Anne Dangar and Dorrit Black all studied under the foremost teacher of modernism in Paris, André Lhote. Crowley not only taught the golden section and dynamic symmetry to Rah Fizelle, Ralph Balson and students of the Crowley-Fizelle Art School, but used it to develop her own abstract art during the 1940s and 1950s, well in advance of the arrival of colour-field painting to Australia in the 1960s. Through her teaching at the most progressive modern art school in Sydney in the 1930s Crowley taught the basic compositional techniques as she had learnt them from Lhote. When the art school closed in 1937 she worked in partnership with fellow artist, Ralph Balson as they developed their art into constructive, abstract paintings. Balson has been credited with being the most influential painter in the development of geometric abstraction in Australia for a younger generation of artists. This is largely due to Crowley’s insistence that Balson was the major innovator who led her into abstraction. She consistently refused to take credit for her own role in their artistic partnership. My research indicates that there were a number of factors that strongly influenced Crowley to support Balson and deny her own role. Her archives contain sensitive records of the breakup of her partnership with Rah Fizelle and the closure of the Crowley-Fizelle Art School. These, and other archival material, indicate that Fizelle’s inability to master and teach the golden section and dynamic symmetry, and Crowley’s greater popularity as a teacher, was the real cause of the closure of the School. Crowley left notes in her Archives that she still felt deeply distressed, even forty years after the events, and did not wish the circumstances of the closure known in her lifetime. With the closure of the Art School and her close friend Dangar living in France, her friendship with Balson offered a way forward. This thesis argues that Crowley chose to conceal her considerable mathematical and geometric ability, rather than risk losing another friend and artistic partner in a similar way to the breakup of the partnership with Fizelle. With the death of her father in this period, she needed to spend much time caring for her mother and that left her little time for painting. She later also said she felt that a man had a better chance of gaining acceptance as an artist, but it is equally true that, without Dangar, she had no-one to give her support or encourage her as an artist. By supporting Balson she was able to provide him with a place to work in her studio and had a friend with whom she could share her own passion for art, as she had done with Dangar. During her long friendship with Balson, she painted with him and gave him opportunities to develop his talents, which he could not have accessed without her. She taught him, by discreet practical demonstration the principles she had learnt from Lhote about composition. He had only attended the sketch club associated with the Crowley- Fizelle Art School. Together they discussed and planned their paintings from the late 1930s and worked together on abstract paintings until the mid-1950s when, in his retirement from house-painting, she provided him with a quiet, secluded place in which to paint and experiment with new techniques. With her own artistic contacts in France, she gained him international recognition as an abstract painter and his own solo exhibition in a leading Paris art gallery. After his death in 1964, she continued to promote his art to curators and researchers, recording his life and art for posterity. The artist with whom she studied modernism in Paris, Anne Dangar, also received her lifelong support and promotion. In the last decade of her life Crowley provided detailed information to curators and art historians on the lives of both her friends, Dangar and Balson, meticulously keeping accurate records of theirs and her own life devoted to art. In her latter years she arranged to deposit these records in public institutions, thus becoming a contributor to Australian art history. As a result of this foresight, the stories of both her friends, Balson and Dangar, have since become a record of Australian art history. (PLEASE NOTE: Some illustrations in this thesis have been removed due to copyright restrictions, but may be consulted in the print version held in the Fisher Library, University of Sydney. APPENDIX 1 gratefully supplied from the Grace Crowley Archives, Art Gallery of New South Wales Research Library)|
|Description:||Master of Philosophy|
|Rights and Permissions:||The author retains copyright of this thesis.|
|Type of Work:||Masters Thesis|
|Appears in Collections:||Sydney Digital Theses (Open Access)|
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