Centre of a city
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.
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
© Estate of Grace Cossington Smith
Shown in 12 exhibitions
Forty-sixth Annual Exhibition of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales (1925), Exhibition Gallery Department of Public Instruction, Sydney, Aug 1925 -
Grace Cossington Smith (1972), Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 21 Jun 1972–10 Jul 1972
Grace Cossington Smith (1973-74):
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 15 Jun 1973–15 Jul 1973
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 06 Sep 1973–04 Oct 1973
- Western Australian Art Gallery, Perth 06 Dec 1973–02 Jan 1974
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 11 Jan 1974–10 Feb 1974
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 26 Mar 1974–28 Apr 1974
Grace Cossington Smith (1976), Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, 03 Mar 1976–15 Mar 1976
Metropolis, Museum of Sydney, Sydney, 18 Dec 1999–02 Apr 2000
The Fairfax Corporate Collection of Australian paintings, Sotheby's Gallery Sydney, Woollahra, 14 Nov 2002–17 Nov 2002
Sydney studios, S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 14 Aug 2004–26 Sep 2004
Grace Cossington Smith: a retrospective exhibition (2005):
Australian modern masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
Sydney Moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Jul 2013–07 Oct 2013
Destination Sydney, S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 11 Dec 2015–21 Feb 2016
O'Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism:
- Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne 12 Oct 2016–19 Feb 2017
- Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 11 Mar 2017–11 Jun 2017
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. cat.no. 10; titled 'Centre of a city'; dated 1935; price: $2,000
Macquarie Galleries, Grace Cossington-Smith [sic] (1976), Sydney, 1976. cat.no. 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. cat.no. 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.). illus.no. 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.). cat.no. 17