In the early 1940s, Ralph Balson moved towards complete abstraction, referring to his new flat, geometric compositions as 'constructive paintings'. His 1941 show at Anthony Hordern's gallery in Sydney has been acclaimed as the first entirely non-figurative solo exhibition in Australia. Balson continued painting in this vein for the next 15 years.
Around 1950, Balson simplified his forms further towards rectilinear shapes, echoing the abstractions of Piet Mondrian. Later in the decade he moved to a softer colour palette and clearly visible brushstrokes. His colleague Grace Crowley shifted similarly towards geometric abstraction, preserving a more vivid use of primary colours and dynamic movement across the picture space.
oil on paperboard
85.7 x 109.9 cm board; 87.5 x 112.4 x 3.1 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, yellow oil "R-BALSON -/42".
Purchased with funds provided by an anonymous purchase fund for contemporary Australian art 1970
© Ralph Balson Estate
Shown in 4 exhibitions
Society of Artists Annual Exhibition (1942), Education Department Gallery [Loftus Street], Sydney, 02 Sep 1942–24 Sep 1942
Ralph Balson: a retrospective:
- Heide Park and Art Gallery, Bulleen 15 Aug 1989–24 Sep 1989
- Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle 06 Oct 1989–19 Nov 1989
- Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong 01 Dec 1989–28 Jan 1990
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 14 Feb 1990–01 Apr 1990
- University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane 12 Apr 1990–24 May 1990
Parallel Visions: Twenty-two artists from the Australian collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Feb 2002–May 2003
Sydney Moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 2013–07 Oct 2013
Referenced in 11 publications
Bruce Adams, Ralph Balson A Retrospective, Bulleen, Jul 1989, 24, 26 (colour illus.), 76. cat.no. 12
Nicholas Chambers, Art and Australia (Vol. 40, No. 2), 'Ralph Balson: "Painting". Abstracting the invisible', pg. 250-251, Sydney, Dec 2002-Feb 2003, 250.
Deborah Edwards, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Moderns', pg. 103-104, Sydney, 2000, 104, 128 (colour illus.), 300.
Paul McGillick, Aspect: Art and Literature, 'The importance of Ralph Balson', pg. 4-17, Mona Vale, Winter 1981, 14 (illus.), 15.
Hal Missingham (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, Sydney, Jul 1971, 606, 616, 617 (illus.). Special Gifts
Lisa Slade, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, ''What the arty call the abstract': Ralph Balson's 1941 exhibition', pg. 290-295, Sydney, 2013, 293 (colour illus.), 310, 320.
Jill Sykes, Look, 'Small and temporary: but it's a big pointer to the future', pg. 28-29, Sydney, Sep 2011, front cover (colour illus., detail), 9 (colour illus.), 28.
Elena Taylor, Symposium papers: Colour in art - revisiting 1919 & R-Balson, 'Crowley-Balson: Collaboration in abstraction', pg. 37-39, Sydney, 2008, 37, 38.
Daniel Thomas, Gallery A Sydney 1964 - 1983, 'Ralph Balson and Gallery A', pg. 103-115, Campbelltown, 2009, 105 (colour illus.), 110, 112.
Natalie Wilson, Parallel visions: works from the Australian collection, 'Grace Crowley / Ralph Balson / Frank Hinder / Margel Hinder', pg. 88-103, Sydney, 2002, 94, 95 (colour illus.), 142, 147.
Grace Crowley's contribution to Australian modernism and geometric abstraction, 'Partnership in abstraction', pg. 105-130, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010, 114, 115 (illus.). figure 5.3