Manly Harbour Beach
Australia, England, France
29 Apr 1875 - 28 May 1963
Margaret Preston is arguably Australia's most celebrated early modernist painter who created exuberant innovative compositions over the 1920s, 30s and 40s which have remained amongst the most popular of all Australian artist's works. Not only a seminal modernist, Preston was the country's first serious advocate of Aboriginal art. 'Manly Harbour Beach' demonstrates the transition of Preston's art in the 1940s away from the intense saturated colours and design orientation of her work in the 1920s and 1930s to the restricted ochres of Aboriginal painting thus recreating the urban environment through reference to the indigenous inspired vision which she considered central in her promotion of a modern and nationally relevant art.
While much of Preston's work in the 1940s turned increasingly away from an urban vision and, inspired by her extensive travel across Australia and to Aboriginal communities and painting and carving sites, focused toward redefining the nation's landscapes, 'Manly Harbour Beach' provides a rare example of the artist's references to Aboriginal art within the metropolitan context. 'Manly Harbour Beach' is indicative of a group of works that were produced during the war years where the Preston adopted a faux-naive style, which, informed by the growing interest in the immediacy of children's art, was used by Preston to recount scenes of her everyday environment during the years of the Second World War. Her focus on localised experience within the context of international conflict is indicative of Preston's ongoing expression of nationalist content.
Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2004
Picnic at Manly
oil on canvas
43.0 x 35.0 cm stretcher; 42.5 x 34.7 cm sight ; 57.5 x 49.7 x 6.0 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. corner, pencil "M. Preston/ 43".
Purchased with funds provided by the Walter and Gillian Bunning Bequest Fund 2004
Not on display
© Margaret Rose Preston Estate
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Society of Artists Annual Exhibition (1943), Education Department Gallery [Loftus Street], Sydney, 14 Aug 1943–01 Sep 1943
Contemporary Art Society Sixth Annual Exhibition (1944), Vickery's Galleries, Sydney, 26 Jun 1944–14 Jul 1944
Margaret Preston retrospective:
Harbourlife: Sydney Harbour from the 1940s to recent times:
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Referenced in 9 publications
Therese Kenyon and Rhonda Davis, Harbourlife, 'foreword', pg. 5, Sydney, 2007, 4 (colour illus.), 5, 56.
Sydney Ure Smith, Australian present day art, 'Margaret Preston', pg. 58, Sydney, 1943, 63 (illus.). titled 'Manly Harbour Beach'
Deborah Edwards and Rose Peel, Margaret Preston: Catalogue raisonné of paintings, monotypes and ceramics, Sydney, 2005, (colour illus.). Artworks: paintings 1943.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2005, Sydney, 2005, 17, 63.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2005, Sydney, 2005, front cover (colour illus.).
Sixth Annual Exhibition: Contemporary Art Society, Sydney, 1944. cat.no. 181; titled 'Picnic at Manly'; price: 20 gns.
The Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation and Michael Brand, Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation: Celebrating 30 years of art acquisitions, Sydney, 2015, 31 (colour illus.).
Society of Artists Annual Exhibition, Sydney, 1943. cat.no. 76; titled 'Manly Harbour Beach'; price: 15 Gns.
Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, 'An art for Australia from Australians 1940s-1950s', pg. 173-250, Sydney, 2005, 180 (colour illus.), 185.