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    Women from History: Grace Cossington Smith

    By Julia Ritson

    Sydney born Grace Cossington Smith painted this work in 1915 and lucky for us Daniel Thomas convinced the Art Gallery of NSW to add it to their collection in 1960. It was from one of her first exhibitions. She was 23 years old.

    The sock knitter, 1915

    A painting of a good middle class daughter knitting socks for the men at war in 1915. That's it. But we are forced to look at the way the painting is made. It isn't really about Grace's sister Madge knitting socks. It's about painting and what the sitter feels.

    The figure is pressed forward onto the picture plane. Tightly constructed. The creamy impasto paint of the backgrounds holds the picture together. The sitter then holds the background together. Like a jigsaw. She is the pattern maker. There are echoing triangles everywhere.

    The walls are bare and overbearing. Probably how Madge was feeling. The dutiful daughter burden. She shows no emotion.

    Smith loved patterns and colour. The artist said "my early paintings were much more of a pattern like... The sock knitter... In those days I felt everything was a pattern. It wasn't a forced thing at all."

    Every thing a pattern. You can imagine her living in the one house for 60 years and continuing to find inspiration in all sorts of places. Her later work was almost all patterned.

    Including this lovely mosaic-like patterned self portrait Grace painted in 1948.

    Love Grace again.

    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.

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