Guest contributor Belinda Hungerford visits the Art Gallery of NSW exhibition Modern Impressions: Australian Prints from the Collection.
Modernism arrived in Australia at about the same time as other parts of the world and reached all aspects of Australian culture, with its crowning glory arguably the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Modernism was especially embraced by women with its designs quickly adopted in the domestic sphere through soft furnishings, glassware, crockery, furniture, lighting and women’s clothing. Publications such as the Home magazine were also instrumental in promoting the modernist aesthetic. Modern art began to appear on the walls with women not just admirers but practitioners too.
During the 1920s and 1930s women dominated the modern art movement with various speculations relating to social change as to why. In conjunction with the loss of many men during WWI, the profitability of art-making had declined between the wars resulting in a lessening number of male artists. This, in tandem with the growth of social freedom, a development particularly beneficial for women, meant that more and more women were able to pursue careers with many choosing an artistic life. Those with independent means also took the opportunity to travel and study abroad. Read more