Landmark Australian artist's studio works go to auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 19th March, 2015

A landmark Australian artist, Elizabeth Durack was born 100 years ago this year and died in 2000. 

She was born into one of the pastoral families that opened up the Kimberley region of Western Australia during the 19th century – and was heavily influenced in her artistic development by Aboriginal cave paintings she saw as a girl and by the rituals and ceremonies of the oldest culture on earth.

Despite attending Loreto Convent and studying art at Chelsea Polytechnic in London in 1936, these influences never left her.

The Kimberley was Durack’s corner of nature and her depiction of the unfolding human story in northern Australia – including the characters of the landscape and the social and economic change that stirred and ruptured their world – reveals much about her temperament.

Durack was fiercely intelligent, empathetic yet analytic, according to Elena Douglas, founder and chief executive of Knowledge Society.

Douglas has written a biography of the artist in Mossgreen’s catalogue, devoted to the auctioning of many of Durack’s studio estate works from 2pm Sunday March 22 at the West Australian Ballet Centre in Perth.

“The defining purpose of Durack’s life was to share her knowledge, intimacy with and love of the art and culture of the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley,” she says.

“She was one of the first Australians – and certainly one of the first Australian women – to pursue this ambition.”

With 65 solo and numerous group exhibitions, Mossgreen managing director Paul Sumner describes Durack as a singular Australian – a contemporary of Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd.

“Durack was one of only three female painters represented in the seminal Recent Australian Painting exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1961.

The auction features several seminal works from the artist’s oeuvre including the dramatically intense and figuratively intriguing Breakdown 1950 (an early and significant oil painting), The Grandmother 1946 and two monumental complete series Dreaming Up the Victoria 1993 and Flightless Birds Achieve Lift Off 1975.

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