Menzies Art Brands



Grace Cossington-Smiths portraits are relatively few, with landscapes and still-lifes dominating her oeuvre. The 1930s saw the artist depict people close to her in more traditional portrait formats, including Figure Through Flowers c1932 and The Artists Sister 1936. This trend culminated with her well known Self Portrait 1948 held by the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.

During the war years, the Smith sisters took boarders into their home Cossington in Turramurra, one of whom was Mrs McGann. Perhaps Cossington Smith saw something of herself in the unaccompanied, older woman. When compared to her Self Portrait painted four years later, they share a similar penetrating, unsentimental (though not unkind) expression, as well as the same mould of brown glasses. Cossington Smiths talent as a portraitist is evidenced by how aspects of Mrs McGanns personality are so easily perceivable: she is self-possessed, quiet, and tidy - the ideal characteristics of a boarder.1

1. Modern Australian Painting 2003 [exhibition catalogue], Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, 2003, n.p.

Asta Cameron

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