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Australian art

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The Lacquer Room



Grace Cossington Smith


1892 - 20 Dec 1984


It was quite a surprise, I didn't know it was there, but I went down to get cup of tea … and found this lovely restaurant … I was struck by its colour and general design the moment I saw it … Scarlet, green and white held me spellbound...

Grace Cossington Smith, 1979

Inspired by the art deco designs and vivid colours of the David Jones department store cafe in Sydney, 'The Lacquer Room' embodies the modern inter-war urban experience. The rich red and scattered patterns of the chairs are contrasted with the gleaming green of the lacquered tables, set against the brightness of the walls and polished floors. Grace Cossington Smith’s bold approach to colour exudes a sense of celebrating the new, similar to the contemporary consumer culture epitomised by the department store.


Place where the work was made

Turramurra Sydney New South Wales Australia



Media category


Materials used

oil on paperboard on plywood


74.0 x 90.8 cm board; 87.0 x 104.0 x 3.9 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed l.l. corner, black ink "G Cossington Smith". Not dated.


Purchased 1967


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Grace Cossington Smith

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 11 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 34 publications


Christine Bates, Making art connections: Visual arts years 7 & 8, 'Lets make an artwork: Peeking into private worlds', pg. 38-39, North Ryde, 2010, 38 (colour illus.).

Janine Burke, Australian women artists diary, Birchgrove, circa 1993, 45, 140 (colour illus.), 179. plate no. 68

Diana Chase and Valerie Krantz, Grace Cossington Smith: a painter ahead of her time, Melbourne, 1993, 25 (colour illus.). Part of "Headliners" Series

Jonathan Cooper (Editor), Exhibitions events - Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Aug 1999-Oct 1999, 12 (colour illus.).

Prue Davidson, Limelight, 'A beautiful scene: Sydney's artists were both wild and creative in the 1940s', pg. 20-21, Sydney, Aug 2004, 20 (colour illus.).

Laurie Duggan, Ghost nation: imagined space and Australian visual culture 1901-1939, 'Interiors', pg. 216-222, St. Lucia, 2001, 216, (illus.). reproduced between pages 136-137

Deborah Edwards and Vivienne Webb, Look, 'An icon of Sydney modernism', pg.18-19, Melbourne, Aug 1999, 18, 19 (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, cover (colour illus.).

Deborah Edwards, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Mosaic and figure', pg. 213-214, Sydney, 2000, 218 (colour illus.), 302.

Sarah Engledow', The world of Thea Proctor, 'The world of Thea Proctor', pg. 16-84, Canberra, 2005, 62, 63 (colour illus.), 178.

Deborah Hart, Grace Cossington Smith, 'A distinctive vision', pg. 26-55, Canberra, 2005, 36, 52-53, 105, 138 (colour illus.), 139-143, 178.

Mervyn Horton (Editor), Art and Australia, Sydney, Mar 1967, 205 (illus.).

Jane Hylton, Modern Australian women: paintings & prints 1925-1945, 'Individual streams: Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor, Grace Cossington Smith, Clarice Beckett', pg. 62-93, Adelaide, 2000, 69 (colour illus.), 80, 84, 126.

Bruce James, Sydney moderns: art for a new world, 'Writing colour: from Mrs van Gogh to Grace Cossington Smith', pg. 34-37, Sydney, 2013, 34, 74, 98, 118, 140, 148, 151 (colour illus.), 316, 324.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Painting and Sculpture', pg. 102-181, Sydney, 1999, 144 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Good Weekend, Sydney, 20 Jul 1996, 8, 22.

Heather Johnson, Aspects of Art Deco in Australia: Sunrise over the Pacific, 'Art Deco art', pg. 96-105, Sydney, 2001, 102, 103 (colour illus.). plate no. 118

Joan Kerr (Editor), Heritage: The national women's art book, Sydney, 1995, 151 (colour illus.), 152. 250

Lauren Martin., The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Modern message from the extreme end of niceness', Sydney, 03 Mar 2005.

Drusilla Modjeska, Stravinsky's lunch, 'To Paint What She Saw: Grace Cossington Smith', pg. 203-334, Sydney, 1999, (colour illus.). plate no. 33

Drusilla Modjeska, The Weekend Australian magazine, 'A woman's lot', pg. 22-25, Sydney, 21 Aug 1999-22 Aug 1999, 5 (colour illus.), 22 (colour illus.). The image appearing on page 5 is in detail.

National Gallery of South Australia, Modern Australian women: paintings and prints 1925-1945, Adelaide, 2000, (colour illus.). not paginated; 6-page fold-out brochure accompanying the exhibition

Helen O'Neill, David Jones': 175 years, 'The art of David Jones', pg. 256-283, Sydney, 2013, 256, 257 (colour illus.).

Boo Patrick, Look, 'Sydney students speak...about Sydney Moderns', pg. 26-27, Sydney, Mar 2014, 26.

Barry Pearce and Haruo Arikawa, Two hundred years of Australian painting: nature, people and art in the southern continent, Tokyo, 1992, 102 (colour illus., detail), 126 (colour illus.). 75

Ursula Prunster, Aspects of Australian art, Sydney, 2000, (colour illus.). card no. 6: Grace Cossington Smith 'The lacquer room' circa 1935

John Slater, Through artists' eyes: Australian suburbs and their cities 1919-1945, 'Continuity and change', pg. 35-70, Melbourne, 2004, 42, 113 (colour illus.), 114-115. 97

Bernard William Smith, The formalesque: a guide to modern art and its history, South Yarra, 2007, 90 (colour illus.).

Daniel Thomas, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'Grace Cossington Smith', pg. 510-521, Sydney, Jan 1970, 517, 520 (illus.), 521.

Daniel Thomas, Symposium papers: Colour in art - revisiting 1919 & R-Balson, 'Modern Australia: Colour in art 1910s-1950s', pg. 3-11, Sydney, 2008, 8, 11.

Daniel Thomas, Creating Australia: 200 years of art 1788-1988, 'Colour-Worship', pg.174-175, Melbourne, 1988, 9, 174-175, 175 (colour illus.), 239, 247.

Daniel Thomas, Art and Australia, 'Australian collection', pg. 52-62, Sydney, Jul 1972, 55 (colour illus.).

Judith White (Editor), Look, 'September events for members 1999', pg. 24-25, Melbourne, Sep 1999, 24.

Author Unknown, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Australia, 1994, 307 (illus.).