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Australian art

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Australian legend, number 2: The terrible story

(circa 1957)


Margaret Preston

Australia, England, France

29 Apr 1875 - 28 May 1963


"In wishing to rid myself of the mannerisms of a country other than my own I have gone to the art of a people who had never seen or known anything different from themselves ... These are the Australian aboriginals [sic] and it is only from the art of such people in any land that a national art can spring."
- Margaret Preston 1925

Margaret Preston's appreciation and understanding of Aboriginal art and culture grew in sophistication from the time she made her first pronouncements on the subject in the 1920s. During her life she made several visits to Central and Northern Australia, and visited rock art sites in and around Sydney, where she lived. The Australian legend series was made towards the end of her career and integrates colours and compositions derived from Aboriginal paintings, as well as motifs from rock art. For example, the large human footprints in each of these prints were taken from rock carvings in the Sydney area which Preston had seen on excursions with the Anthropological Society of New South Wales.

Australian Art Department, AGNSW, 2000


Other Title

The terrible story


(circa 1957)

Media category


Materials used

colour woodcut on tan laid Japanese paper


Unknown edition


29.4 x 29.0 cm blockmark; 36.3 x 32.5 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed in block to print l.l., incised "MP".
Signed l.r. beneath blockmark, pencil "Margaret Preston". Not dated.


Gift of W.G. Preston, the artist's widower 1967


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Margaret Preston

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Elizabeth Butel, Margaret Preston: the art of constant rearrangement, Ringwood, 1985, 58 (colour illus.), 93. P.76; titled 'The terrible story'

Roger Arthur Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston: a catalogue raisonné, Canberra, 2005, 327 (colour illus.). 402

Roger Arthur Butler, The prints of Margaret Preston: a catalogue raisonné, Canberra, 1987, 294 (colour illus.). 402

Nicholas Thomas, Possessions: indigenous art / colonial culture, 'Hierarchies: from traditional to contemporary', pg. 196-223, London, 1999, 212 (illus.), 297. 127