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Framing Turramurra, Grace Crossington Smith

The beloved Australian artist who captured the colour, shape and magic of Turramurra.

Grace Crossington Smith painting

Cossington, at 43 Ku-ring-gai Avenue, is a heritage-listed property with a delightful garden. It was home to one of Turramurra’s most famous residents and one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, Grace Cossington Smith.

Cossington Smith was born Grace Smith in 1892 in Neutral Bay. Her mother, also called Grace, was the daughter of the rector in Cossington, Leicestershire, England and grew up in Cossington Hall. It obviously held fond memories for her because she named the house at Neutral Bay “Cossington”. When the family moved to the house in Turramurra, they also called it “Cossington”.

The younger Grace later adopted Cossington as part of her name.

Cossington Smith attended Abbotsleigh School for Girls in Wahroonga from 1905 to 1909 before studying drawing with the Italian born artist, Antonio Dattilo Rubbo, in Sydney for two years. She and her sister were then sent to England to live with an aunt from 1912 to 1914. There, Cossington Smith furthered her artistic studies, travelling to Germany for a short period.

When she returned to Sydney, Cossington Smith resumed her tutelage with Rubbo. Also studying with him was noted painter, Norah Simpson, who had spent time in France where she was exposed to the new modernist movement. Simpson and modernism had a distinct influence on Cossington Smith who adopted the style and became, arguably, the first Australian modernist painter.

The landscapes and daily life of Sydney and its surrounding (especially northern) suburbs feature prominently in Cossington Smith’s work. She has depicted her own home, garden and the streets of Turramurra in many of her works. The Eastern Road, painted in 1926, typifies the artist’s painting style with its bold shapes and colours and almost cartoonishly distorted dimensions. It shows an undulating road with a lone horse and cart on it. The rural setting is broken by conspicuous telegraph poles along the perimeter of the road, capturing the melding worlds of country life and city which Cossington Smith would have experienced.

Grace Cossington Smith died in 1984, aged 92.


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