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Australian art

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Banksia cobs



Margaret Preston

Australia, England, France

29 Apr 1875 - 28 May 1963


'Australian artists must feel inherently the difference between their land and that of others ... the tremendous difference in our flowers ... so our treatment of our flora must be different. If it isn't then it is merely copy and repetition.'
Margaret Preston, early 1940s

During the 1930s, Margaret Preston spent time living in bushland at Berowra, in the Hawkesbury River region, where she refined her perceptions of the land and investigated the natural world. 'Banksia cobs' emanates from this period and represents what Preston believed to be a more authentic engagement with the essential forms of the environment. Set within a shallow representational space, the painting depicts the centralised weight of banksia cobs and spiky leathery leaves with a restrained palette aligned to the colder, more sombre ranges of certain Australian plants. With its blackened forms, the painting suggests a recent fire in the region, and demonstrates the endurance and regeneration of Australia’s indigenous plant life.




Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


45.8 x 53.2 cm stretcher; 66.0 x 57.5 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. corner, pencil "M.P. 33".


Gift of Mr Howard Sherrard 1982


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Margaret Preston

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


Elizabeth Butel, Margaret Preston: the art of constant rearrangement, Ringwood, 1985, 39-40, 45, 86. O.11

Roger Arthur Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston: a catalogue raisonné, Canberra, 2005, 177 (colour illus.).

Deborah Edwards and Rose Peel, Margaret Preston: Catalogue raisonné of paintings, monotypes and ceramics, Sydney, 2005, (colour illus.). Artworks: paintings 1933.

Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, 'Berowra 1930s', pg.151-172, Sydney, 2005, 151, 150 (colour illus.), 154, 253, 260, 261, 260.

Humphrey McQueen, The black swan of trespass: the emergence of Modernist painting in Australia to 1944, Sydney, 1979, 148, 153.

National Art Gallery of New South Wales, Margaret Preston and William Dobell loan exhibition, Sydney, 1942. 35

Ian North, The art of Margaret Preston, South Australia, 1980, 8.

Society of Artists, Society of Artists Annual Exhibition, Sydney, 1933. 145