A new exhibition at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery on The University of Western Australia campus takes an in-depth look at the 1930s, a vibrant and tumultuous decade in Australia.
Cosmopolitan: Art from the 1930s in the University of Western Australia Art Collection and the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art runs between Saturday 31 August and Saturday 7 December.
Curated by Dr Sally Quin, the curator of the UWA Art Collection, Cosmopolitan takes a deep dive into 1930s Australian art, showcasing the diversity of artistic styles from this period and the strength of UWA’s art collections.
“The 1930s was a stimulating and complex time economically, politically, socially and artistically in Australia,” Dr Quin said. “It is framed by two cataclysmic events: the 1929 Wall Street Crash which precipitated the Great Depression and the 1939 entry into the Second World War.”
The exhibition features 1930s paintings, drawings and prints by a number of well-known and under-recognised Australian artists, including Elise Blumann, Lina Bryans, Grace Crowley, Ian Fairweather, James Gleeson, Nora Heysen, Frank Hinder, Ethel Spowers and Danila Vassilieff.
“New technological developments saw an increase in the global exchange of information, ideas and images as Australia began to see itself as part of an international community,” Dr Quin said.
“The eclectic and frequently enigmatic quality of 1930s Australian art is part of its appeal and its strength. It appears a far more stimulating response to global issues and the problems of aesthetics than the so-called heroic years of Australian art of the 1940s.”
The exhibition also shines a light on the UWA art collections, specifically the UWA Art Collection and the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art (CCWA).
UWA Chief Cultural Officer Professor Ted Snell AM CitWA said the University’s collections documented the history of the country.
“In unique ways they highlight major social and cultural changes that occurred during this important period in Australia and provide a window into the past,” Professor Snell said.
Cosmopolitan gives equal prominence to the role female artistic voices played during this period. It also highlights the diversity of artistic styles which characterised the decade.
Cosmopolitan will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am to 5pm, except for public holidays. Admission is free. It will be accompanied by a series of public programs, including artist and curator talks, tours and a forthcoming symposium. For more information visit www.lwagallery.uwa.edu.au.
Image in this article is Ethel Spowers 'Harvest' 1932 linocut. Courtesy of The University of Western Australia Art Collection.