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  • Grace Crowley's contribution to Australian modernism and geometric abstraction

Grace Crowley's contribution to Australian modernism and geometric abstraction

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by Dianne Ottley

Grace Crowley has been recognized as a product of European modernism and was one of the leading innovators of geometric abstraction in Australia. Having studied in Paris in the 1920s with one of the leading art teachers, writers and theorists, André Lhote, she returned to Australia having mastered the complex mathematics and geometry of the golden section and dynamic symmetry, that had become a framework for modernism. Through her teaching of these compositional techniques at the most progressive modern art school in Sydney in the 1930s, she became a crucial influence on the group of artists now recognized as the historical forerunners to American colour-field painting introduced to Australia in the 1960s, and Australian abstraction.

Through her close friendship with Anne Dangar, who played a critical role in the success of Albert Gleizes’ utopian art colony in rural France, Crowley maintained contact with mainstream European modernism and links to the Abstraction-Creation Group in Paris. During the 1940s and 1950s, Crowley worked with fellow-artist Ralph Balson, and together they developed their own style of geometric abstract art which reflected the spiritual dimensions of Kandinsky and Mondrian. Although undervalued in her own time, the sincerity and uncompromising quality of her work that transcends national boundaries, makes her one of the most important Australian women artists of her generation.

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