Cossington Smith, Grace (1892–1984) By Moore, Catriona
Grace Cossington Smith was one of Australia’s foremost female modernist artists. Having developed an enthusiasm for modern theories of color and design at the Dattilo Rubbo art school in Sydney, in 1915 she exhibited The Sock Knitter, a seated portrait of her sister Madge knitting socks for the war effort. The portrait’s tight composition and flat blocks of decorative colour, influenced by the modern British style, have led to claims that it may be Australia’s first Post-Impressionist painting.
Cossington Smith went further than most in exploring the technical challenges and pictorial effects of colour and rhythmic compositional structure. She lived an unmarried, childless and economically comfortable life devoted to art. Living in relative suburban seclusion, Cossington Smith nonetheless held regular and successful solo exhibitions and was loosely involved with Ethel Anderson’s Turramurra Wall Painters. Her broad subject matter includes city scenes as well as portraits of friends and family, religious scenes, landscapes, still lifes and flower paintings. The artist later focused loving attention on the formal and spiritual dimensions of light, as expressed in the mirrored interior spaces of her beloved home, Cossington.