MOLONG SHOW (also known as THE FAIRGROUND), 1946

Important Australian + International Fine Art
1 December 2022


(1875 - 1963)
MOLONG SHOW (also known as THE FAIRGROUND), 1946

mixed media on canvas

42.5 x 54.5 cm

signed and dated lower left: M. PRESTON. / 1946

$80,000 – $100,000
Sold for $171,818 (inc. BP) in Auction 72 - 1 December 2022, Melbourne

Mary Alice Evatt, Sydney
David Dyring, Melbourne, a gift from the above, until 1980
Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 5 November 1980, lot 722 (as ‘Country Carnival’)
Private collection, Sydney
Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne, acquired from the above
Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, acquired from the above in October 1986
Private collection, Melbourne
Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers–Grundy Collection, acquired from the above in 1998 (stamp and label attached verso)


Society of Artists’ Annual Exhibition, Education Department, Sydney, 24 August – 11 September 1946, cat. 185
Australian art: Colonial to Modern, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 15 – 26 April 1985, cat. 77 (illus. in exhibition catalogue, as ‘The fairground’)
Australian Paintings 1824 – 1940, Christopher Day Gallery, Sydney, Winter 1985, cat. 45 (illus. in exhibition catalogue, as ‘The fairground’)
Australian Women Artists; Paintings, Watercolours and Prints, Bridget McDonnell Gallery, Melbourne, 19 September – 8 October 1986 (as ‘The Fairground’)
Blue chip choice, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, March – April 1998, cat. 24 (as ‘The fairground’)
Margaret Preston: Art and Life, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 July – 23 October 2005; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 12 November 2005 – 29 January 2006; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 18 February – 7 May 2006; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 26 May – 13 August 2006 (label attached verso)


Butler, R., The prints of Margaret Preston, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2005, p. 351
Edwards, D., Margaret Preston Catalogue Raisonné of paintings, monotypes and ceramics, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, pp. 184 (illus.), 185, 285
Margaret Preston Catalogue Raisonné of paintings, monotypes and ceramics, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, CD-ROM compiled by Mimmocchi, D., with Edwards, D., and Peel, R.

Catalogue text

Margaret Preston

Margaret Preston
Japanese submarine exhibition, 1942
oil on canvas
43.2 x 50.8 cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

It was during the years of the Second World War that Margaret Preston created some of her most striking paintings, including Aboriginal landscape, 1941 (Art Gallery of South Australia), and Flying over the Shoalhaven, 1942 (National Gallery of Australia). Such works clearly demonstrate her decades-long pursuit of a ‘national’ art for Australia which fused elements of European, Asian and Indigenous techniques. This belief was further intensified by her association with the Jindyworobak group ‘for whom nationalism and the indigenous (cultural, spiritual, environmental) were central themes, and which made Aboriginalism a literary movement’ of the 1940s.’1 In 1942, Preston embarked on a small suite of paintings which critiqued the politics of war which, to her, had reduced Australia to to ‘an intellectually barricaded country and in her mind, less Australian – a country in the which the community was bound in conformity.’2 Although painted soon after the war ended, Molong show, 1946, is directly related these earlier works.

The initial painting of the series is Japanese submarine exhibition, 1942 (Art Gallery of New South Wales) which depicts the authorities’ hastily built display of the wreckage from one of the midget submarines that attacked Sydney Harbour in May 1942, killing 22 people. Posed like a clumsy sideshow exhibit, Preston emphasised the signs warning ‘Do not ask questions’, a stark contrast to Preston’s own attitude to art and life. She also adopts a faux naïve style reminiscent of both folk and children’s art, each of which were of interest to modernist artists at the time. Preston’s indignation towards war-based intellectual hinderances underpinned her rendering of the barricaded General Post Office, Sydney, 1942 (Art Gallery of South Australia), and the impenetrable maze constructed on Narrabeen beach, seen in Tank traps, 1943 (Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery). Utilising a reduced Indigenous palette of black, brown and ochre, these paintings are also some of the most concise socio-political commentaries produced in Australia during the War.

Margaret Preston

Margaret Preston
Tank Traps, 1943
oil on canvas
42.0 x 52.5 cm
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria

By early 1946, most Australian troops had returned home following the cessation of hostilities, and a number of events were organised in celebration, particularly in regional centres. In Molong, located on Wiradjuri lands near Orange in New South Wales, the town organised a ‘Victory Show’ to be held on a holiday weekend in early April, before the more sombre commemoration of Anzac Day. Sited along the Euchareena Road, The Molong Express and Western Districts Advertiser described the crowd as an ‘Atlantic tidal wave’ as they descended on the show, with some 3,500 entries recorded over the three days.3 In Molong show, Preston focuses on the sideshow alley, with its X-ray demonstrations, vaudeville artists, laughing clowns, merry-go-rounds, and a troupe of performing monkeys – one of which perches on the hand of the small girl at lower right. Many of the exhibitors had participated at the Bathurst show the previous weekend and would no doubt continue to travel to similar shows across the state as the year progressed. In a similar manner to Japanese submarine exhibition, Preston again employs a faux naïve approach, but the tone here is celebratory, in marked contrast to the cynicism of the earlier work. Of the handful of war-related paintings by Preston, most are now in the collections of major institutions with Molong show being a rare example still in private hands.

1. Edwards, D., Peel, R. and Mimmocchi, D., Margaret Preston, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2005, p. 178
2. Ibid., p. 176
3. See The Molong Express and Western Districts Advertiser, 12 April 1946, and 19 April 1946, front page and elsewhere