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Australian art

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Manly Harbour Beach



Margaret Preston

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


Other Titles

Manly Corso

Picnic at Manly



Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

Margaret Preston

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 5 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 9 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2005, Sydney, 2005, front cover (colour illus.).

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2005, Sydney, 2005, 17, 63.

Deborah Edwards, Margaret Preston, 'An art for Australia from Australians 1940s-1950s', pg. 173-250, Sydney, 2005, 180 (colour illus.), 185.

Deborah Edwards and Rose Peel, Margaret Preston: Catalogue raisonné of paintings, monotypes and ceramics, Sydney, 2005, (colour illus.). Artworks: paintings 1943.

Therese Kenyon and Rhonda Davis, Harbourlife, 'foreword', pg. 5, Sydney, 2007, 4 (colour illus.), 5, 56.

New South Wales Society of Artists, Society of Artists Annual Exhibition, Sydney, 1943. 76; titled 'Manly Harbour Beach'; price: 15 Gns.

Sydney Ure Smith, Australian present day art, 'Margaret Preston', pg. 58, Sydney, 1943, 63 (illus.). titled 'Manly Harbour Beach'

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.).

Sixth Annual Exhibition: Contemporary Art Society, Sydney, 1944. 181; titled 'Picnic at Manly'; price: 20 gns.