Preston, Margaret (1875–1963) By Moore, Catriona
Margaret Preston was a pioneering modernist who worked across a range of media, including ceramics, china painting, and basketry, as well as painting and printmaking. Preston was attuned to modernism, like many other women artists of her generation. Her reductive portrait, titled Flapper (1928), profiles a forceful New Woman or “flapper“: a smart, working girl with her own money to spend, the type of girl who entered the factories and commercial and service sectors to fill new jobs in retail and office work after the War. In both subject matter and pictorial style, Preston aligned herself with the signs of modernity, including urban life and leisure, consumerism, and the new production processes. Preston described her kitchen table as a modernist laboratory, and she embraced new technologies, machine-like forms, materials, and processes of domestic modernity as fitting subjects for art. We see this in her domestic still life Implement Blue (1927), where Preston’s cubist approach to the motif also shows the influence of art deco, cinema, and glamour photography. Preston trained initially in Adelaide and at the National Gallery School in Melbourne before heading to Europe in 1904 for the first of many overseas trips. She married at the close of the War and remained childless, enjoying financial security and opportunities for international travel that fueled an ongoing fascination with the art of other cultures.