Women from History: Non Objective Grace Crowley

By Julia Ritson Just before Australian artist Grace Crowley died in 1979, she bequeathed the few remaining paintings in her possession to Australian art museums and her papers to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

I often wonder if artists hold on to particular paintings, the paintings they really like and don't want to let go of.

The National Gallery of Victoria scored this one and I think it is one of Grace's best.

The beauty of colour and form.

Abstract Painting 1952

Crowley was one of Australia's first non objective painters. Although not recognised for this as she always promoted the work of her friend Ralph Balson ahead of her own.

Even the reference label for the painting at the museum refers to Ralph.

Crowley had said that it was harder being a woman artist and that women's art was much less acceptable than a man's. She admitted she had thought of using a man's name hoping they would sell better.

For years I've been trying to understand the structure of this painting.

Grace was a thinking woman and had studied with some of the best in Europe. She then went on to teach ideas like the golden section device to create perfect compositions. Exploring the mathematics of geometry and the language of light, colour, space and form.

What she achieves in this painting is to show the illusion of transparency while using opaque colours. Quite a hard thing to do. Involving a lot of pre planning.

See the darker pink slicing through the paler pink in this detail of the painting.

Abstract Painting 1952, detail

For all her explorations, it's the colour and application of paint that pops.

Abstract Painting 1952, detail

She was a superb colourist.

Abstract Painting 1952, detail

Colour and rhythm.

Abstract Painting 1952, detail

I love Grace.

Julia Ritson is a Melbourne artist. Her paintings investigate colour, abstraction and a long-standing fascination with the grid. Julia has enriched and extended her studio practice with a series of limited edition art scarves. She also produces an online journal dedicated to art and scarves and architecture.