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Australian art

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Centre of a city

(circa 1925)


Grace Cossington Smith


1892 - 20 Dec 1984


I suddenly liked the subject – the Centre of the City! I liked the going downhill of Moore Street [now Martin Place], the feeling that the Post Office at the bottom was the centre of the city, the people hurrying about. (Then I was interested in outside things, what people did and what was happening ...)

Grace Cossington Smith, 1971

'Centre of a city' was a groundbreaking painting by Grace Cossington Smith, both in terms of its subject and her approach to it. It was painted at a time when Cossington Smith was commuting regularly to art classes in the city from her home at Turramurra on the North Shore. The radiant blue sky and rosy glow of buildings signal her increasing affection for the city, which reached its climax in her paintings of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the late 1920s.



(circa 1925)

Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas on hardboard


82.3 x 70.0 cm board; 98.9 x 86.6 x 5.7 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. "G.Cossington Smith 35 (sic)".


Purchased with funds provided by Susan Rothwell 2002


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Grace Cossington Smith

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 12 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 24 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2003 [for the year ended 30 June 2003], Sydney, 2003, 9, 14.

Natasha Bullock, Look, 'Shedding Light, photographs by the great Harold Cazneaux are seen in a new light alongside paintings of the time', pg.13, Melbourne, Aug 2001, 13.

Diana Chase and Valerie Krantz, Grace Cossington Smith: a painter ahead of her time, Melbourne, 1993, 18. Book for primary school students.

Christopher Dawson., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'In the galleries', Sydney, 22 Jun 1972.

Roger Dedman, Art and Australia (Vol. 43, No. 2), 'Market profile: Grace Cossington Smith', pg. 295, Sydney, Dec 2005-Feb 2006, 295 (colour illus.).

Deborah Edwards., Australian Collection Focus: Grace Cossington Smith The Lacquer Room 1935-36, 'Secular light and the curve of the chairs', Sydney, 1999, (colour illus.).

Peter Emmett, Metropolis, Glebe, 1999, (colour illus.). Exhibition guide, brochure format.

Peter Emmett, Sydney: metropolis, suburb, harbour, 'Metropolis', pg. 13-70, Glebe, 2000, 41, 42 (colour illus.).

Deborah Hart, Grace Cossington Smith, 'A room of her own', pg. 11-25, Canberra, 2005, 20-24, 114, 126 (colour illus.), 127-129, 175.

Bruce James, Australian painters of the twentieth century, 'Grace Cossington Smith', pg. 40-51, Sydney, 2000, 43, 44 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Grace Cossington Smith, Sydney, 1990, 58, 59 (colour illus.), 60. plate no. 20

Macquarie Galleries, Grace Cossington Smith (1972), Sydney, 1972. 10; titled 'Centre of a city'; dated 1935; price: $2,000

Macquarie Galleries, Grace Cossington-Smith [sic] (1976), Sydney, 1976. 1; titled 'Centre of a city'; dated c.1925; price: $2,750

Jenny McFarlane, Concerning the Spiritual: The influence of the Theosophical Society on Australian Artists 1890-1934, North Melbourne, 2012, 82 (colour illus.), 148. Note: colour plate pages in between pg. 82-83 are unnumbered.

Denise Mimmocchi, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Making Sydney modern: the artistic shaping of the postwar city', pg. 66-85, Sydney, 2013, 74, 81 (colour illus.), 217, 316, 324.

Drusilla Modjeska, Stravinsky's lunch, Sydney, 1999, 258-259, 296-297, between pages 304 and 305 (colour illus.). plate no. 24

Barry Pearce., Foundation Newsletter #2, 'Grace Cossington Smith's "Centre of a city" c1925', Sydney, May 2003.

Annabel Pegus, Look, 'Luminous light: a painting that will speak to future generations', pg. 18, Sydney, Mar 2003, 18 (colour illus.).

Royal Art Society of New South Wales, Royal Art Society of New South Wales 46th Annual Exhibition (1925), Sydney, 1925. 161; titled 'Centre of a City'; priced 12 guineas; not paginated

John Slater, Through artists' eyes: Australian suburbs and their cities 1919-1945, 'The city observed to the city experienced', pg. 71-100, Melbourne, 2004, xii, 88 (colour illus.). 71

Smith & Singer, The Fairfax Corporate Collection of Australian paintings, Armadale, 17 Nov 2002, 12, 13 (colour illus.). lot no. 7

Virginia Spate, Art Monthly Australia, 'Amazing Grace: Thoughts inspired by the Grace Cossington Smith exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra', pg. 22-30, Canberra, Aug 2005, 25.

Daniel Thomas AM, Grace Cossington Smith: a life. From drawings in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1993, 23-24.

Daniel Thomas, Grace Cossington Smith, 'Introduction', pg. 8, Sydney, 1973, 10, 24 (illus.). 17