Author(s): EDWARDS Deborah
This richly illustrated monograph is the first publication to look in detail at the life and art of Margaret Preston, an artist who practised in her native Australia from the mid-1890s right up to her death in 1963. Bearing the conspicuous mark of talent from an early age, the fiercely independent and opinionated Preston can be claimed as Australia's most innovative early modernist. Even in her earliest works, her restless experimentation, ambitions and independence of thought governed a desire to interpret rather than emulate what she saw, to exact essential principles. From the 1920s Preston moved rapidly to the forefront of Australian progressive art, producing a body of work that has remained crucially important to the traditions of Australian art. Her search for the essential truths of the Australian conditions as the basis for an authentic, modern, national art consumed her working life. This national art, she believed, should draw from a fusion of the principles, motifs and techniques of Asian,Western and Aboriginal art, independent of Australia's accepted reliance on British traditions and the growing influence of American trends a vision which over subsequent decades she extended beyond the fine arts to the applied, commercial and public arts. Her forceful opinions, expressed in a wide range of lectures, press interviews and writings, established Preston as one of the most important and provocative public voices of the time. An artist of unlimited invention, Margaret Preston split her contemporaries into a number of camps, and her work has since engendered a multiplicity of opinions from critics, art historians, indigenous writers and anthropologists.