Important Australian + International Fine Art
29 August 2007



oil on canvas

76.0 x 57.5 cm

signed lower left: M. R. Preston

$150,000 - 200,000
Sold for $168,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 2 - 29 August 2007, Melbourne

Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 1981
Private collection, Sydney


Denise Mimmocchi, Margaret Preston, Catalogue Raisonne of Paintings, Monotypes and Ceramics CD-Rom, accompanying Deborah Edwards (et al.), Margaret Preston, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005

Catalogue text

Margaret Preston's output of paintings during 1937 was limited to only three known works, all still lifes of Australian flowers. The reason was an extended trip from May to September to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, followed by South America and Mexico. She did, however, complete the commissioned panels of flower studies for the ocean liner Orcades - at the invitation of by Sir Colin Anderson, director of the Orient Steamship company and a trustee of the Tate Gallery. Preston was joined in these shipping ventures by other notable Australian and British moderns of the calibre of Douglas Annand, Adrian Feint, Paul Nash, and Vanessa Bell. Her work had further international airing, being shown at the Royal Institute Galleries, London, and in the Australian Pavilion of L'Exposition Internationale de Paris des Arts et techniques dans la Vie Moderne, where she awarded a silver medal. In 1938 there followed the large still life paintings commissioned for the New York World Fair and the San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition of 1939 - of 'uniquely Australian' wild flowers, including gum blossoms. As Deborah Edwards of the Art Gallery of New South Wales has pointed out, 'the function of the works was emphatically promotional and nationalistic.'1 Significantly, the image of our painting, 'Gum Blossoms', was used as a colour poster by the Australian National Travel Association promoting Australia. The coincidence with her extensive travels in 1937 suggests that it may have been associated with her trip to the Americas. Of deeper significance was Preston's nationalism expressed through her art, lectures and writings. It prompted 'an emphatic return to the distinctive forms of Australian wildflowers .'2 She was, in her own words, seeking to 'express Australia'3 This was further demonstrated on a large scale in those 1938 paintings she undertook for the New York World Fair.4

Gum blossom was a distinguished and favoured Preston subject, the flowers appearing in many of her works over a period of time. Notable among these are the strikingly individual Western Australian Gum Blossom, 1928 and the more traditionally conceived Australian Gum Blossom, 1928 with its bright reds, both in the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Other numerous titles embracing the words 'Australian native flowers' were no accident. Her interest at this time in Australian flora was advanced by her home at Berowa, where this work was painted, the bush near by being full of native flowers. Inclined now more to naturalism in her paintings, she always combined a strong sense of rhythmic design with her brilliance as a colourist.

1. Edwards, D., Margaret Preston, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, p.170
2., Edwards, op. cit., p.151
3. Preston, M., Art in Australia, 3rd series, no.59,, 15 May 1935, p.18, quoted in Edwards, op. cit, p.154
4. Collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia