Cubism in Australia: Dorrit Black

We have only dipped our toes into Cubism but hopefully enough for you to understand the basic nature of the style, though as the French Cubist painter André Lhote claimed, there are thousands of definitions of cubism, because there are a thousand painters practicing it.

Australians know all about having to travel long distances to get to where we want to be and to find out what is going on in the rest of the world. Australian artists have been doing this since the days of early settlement-travelling back and forth across the world to learn from those at the coal face of change. It is ironical that as Europeans were migrating south for a better life, their creative children & grandchildren were returning to the homeland to catch up on the latest trends in the world of art. The passion that drove them is exemplified when we remember that the journey even by the 1900s took 6-7 weeks.

Over the next three days we are going to look at the works of Dorothea (Dorrit) Foster Black, Grace Crowley & Anne Dangar - all of whom studied in France in the 1920s under Andre Lhote & Albert Gleizes. We met Gleizes in Blog 17 Mar 2018). Here is La danse au bar (Gypsy Bar) by Andre Lhote to show you his style.
Lhote's subjects were often people, the influence of which is evident in the early work of Dorrit Black (1891-1951) such as String Quartette (1935)and Double Basses which is one of my favourites. Note the angular shapes and the use of partition lines in Dorrit’s Paintings and in Lhote’s.
Dutch Houses done in about 1929, shows her growing awareness of the cubist style.
And in Mirmande (with surrounding hills) done in 1934 is beginning to show more sophisication in composition, shape and palette. Mirmande was where Lahore had his summer school in France.
Adelaide born Dorrit Black (1891-1951) is considered to be one of Australia’s most important modern painters yet largely unknown. Black not only studied in Paris, she studied in London with the British linocut printmaker Walter Claude Flight who pioneered and popularised the linoleum cut technique and also painted, illustrated and made wood cuts. Flights’ work is like nothing we have looked at as he was influenced by Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism. This is Speed a linocut by Flight.
Even though his lines are bold and the forms very simple, Flight has achieved a feeling of speed and movement. If we look at Dorrit's
work The Acrobats (a linocut) the influence of Flight’s teaching about movement in line is obvious.

In 1931 Dorrit Black establish the Modern Art Centre in Sydney which was the first gallery in Australia to focus on modernism. Dorrit’s desire to establish an environment for artist to experiment and move forward in the development of new styles was realised by many of Australia’s budding artists.

Dorrit Black lived out the rest of her short life in Adelaide as an inspirational teacher and pioneer of South Australian modernism.
She sold very few of her works as the public weren’t ready for works in so radical a style. Sadly Dorrit Black was killed in a car accident at the age of 59. There can be no doubt of her incredible talent as a pioneering Print Maker shown here with Harbour Veere, a linocut on cream woven paper, Paris, 1929.
Watercolourist - Red Hot Poker, Cacti, Rooftop And Oil Painter - The Farmyard (1944).
The Hero Image today is The Bridge by Dorrit Black.

We've been joined by a group of artists as subscribers so occasionally I'm going to include a few suggestions regarding the personal creation of a piece of work. Cubism teaches us to look at the lines and shapes we create. The aim is to achieve harmony in your composition. So take a look at your current work and ask yourself whether all the lines and shapes fit well together. Is anything out of place? I'm working on this painting It Isn't Portugal at the moment.
Lots of cubes!! But one is out of place! One of the buildings is drawn incorrectly taking over the space of the building next door which in reality would only be a couple of metres deep. Cramped living to say the least! See if you can find it and I'll give you the answer tomorrow.

And tomorrow we will look at the work of Grace Crowley** and hopefully Anne Dangar.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on anewman@netspace.net.au or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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