See salvaged masterpieces in new light

Clarice Beckett paintings on show at Art Gallery of South Australia

Art
Dr Rosalind Hollinrake, who helped redisovered the work of painter Clarice Beckett and Art Gallery of SA curator Tracey Lock. Photo: Peter Drew

Dr Rosalind Hollinrake, who helped redisovered the work of painter Clarice Beckett and Art Gallery of SA curator Tracey Lock. Photo: Peter Drew

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Rescued from obscurity, exhibition celebrates work of pioneering artist Clarice Beckett.

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Clarice Beckett is considered one of Australia's most important painters of the interwar period.

Today the Casterton-born artist is celebrated for her ethereal, atmospheric landscape paintings that capture the commonplace.

And yet the identity of this pioneering artist, who died of pneumonia aged 48 in 1935, was almost completely lost to art history.

Beckett was a modernist, whose brilliance was virtually unnoticed in her lifetime. In the 30 years following her death, her work vanished from art history.

Then in the late 1960s, hundreds of the artist's neglected canvases were rediscovered in a remote open-sided shed in rural Victoria by Dr Rosalind Hollinrake. She salvaged a 369 paintings - 1600 were beyond repair.

Dr Hollinrake first became drawn to Beckett's work in the mid-1960s. But it wasn't until a chance encounter with the artist's sister that she uncovered Beckett's elusive identity and spent the next 50 years rescuing the artist from obsurity.

Now a major exhibition of Beckett's paintings - many not seen publicly for decades - is on show at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide.

Clarice Beckett: The present moment includes many of the salvaged paintings, as well as works drawn from national public collections and private collections including Russell Crowe and Ben Quilty.

Clarice Beckett, Australia, 1887 - 1935, The red sunshade, 1932, Melbourne, oil on
board; Gift of Alastair Hunter OAM and the late Tom Hunter in memory of Elizabeth
through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2019, Art Gallery of South
Australia, Adelaide.

Clarice Beckett, Australia, 1887 - 1935, The red sunshade, 1932, Melbourne, oil on board; Gift of Alastair Hunter OAM and the late Tom Hunter in memory of Elizabeth through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2019, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

Arranged to chronicle a single day, the exhibition takes visitors on a sensory journey that transitions from sunrise vistas, afternoon scapes, to twilight city scenes through 130 works of art.

AGSA Curator of Australian Art and Exhibition Curator Tracey Lock said audiences experience an affinity with the art of Clarice Beckett.

"On one level Beckett represents the triumph of the spirit over adversity and certainly the ideal of an artist driven by something beyond worldly success. On a deeper level they sense a profound humanity, something that has united the world in such adversity over the past year.

"There is a certain magnetism to her paintings: an experiential quality of sound, sight or feeling that transcends language. Enveloped in diffused light and exuding peacefulness, her paintings invite a sense of stillness that points to a healing, spiritual quality."

Lock will be hosting an in-conversation event at the art gallery on May 9 with Dr Hollinrake, where the pair will discuss the disovery of the paintings and the significance of the collection.

Clarice Beckett: The present moment is at Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide until May 19. Photo: Saul Steed.

Clarice Beckett: The present moment is at Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide until May 19. Photo: Saul Steed.

The exhibition comes after the AGSA's aquisition of 21 Beckett paintings oreviously held by Hollinrake early last year thanks to a donation from philathropist Alastair Hunter.

"The story of Clarice Beckett and the work of Dr Hollinrake to protect and promote that story immediately appealed to me," said Mr Hunter.

"The opportunity for the Art Gallery of South Australia to be the custodian of the collection and for my mother, Elizabeth, to be remembered in the process was a perfect fit."

  • Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, until May 16. Tickets $20, concs $17, AGSA members $15, family $40 , student $12, child $10, under-5s free. Click HERE for details.
  • Mother's Day Event: Tracey Lock in conversation with Dr Rosalind Hollinrake, May 9, 11am-2pm, $25, members $20.
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