Past Catalogue | MARCH 2023 | IMPORTANT AUSTRALIAN & INTERNATIONAL ART | Date: 29 March, 2023

Lot 62
Portrait of Mrs McGann 1944
oil on pulpboard
40.5 x 34.5 cm
signed and dated lower left: G. Cossington Smith. 44.

Sotheby's, Melbourne, 7 May 2001, lot 147
Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, 2003 (stock no.06565)
Masterpiece Fine Art Gallery, Hobart, 2007
Private collection, Sydney


19th & 20th Century Australian Painting, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney, April - May 1997 (as The Companion)
Modern Australian Painting 2003, Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, 3-21 June 2003, cat.2 (label attached verso, illus. exhibition catalogue)

Hammer Price + BP A$29,455.00

Grace Cossington-Smith’s 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 Artist’s 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 Smith’s talent as a portraitist is evidenced by how aspects of Mrs McGann’s 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