Farmhouse, Mt Torrens

Born Burnside, South Australia 1891, died Adelaide 1951


Dorothea (Dorrit) Foster Black was a pioneer of modernism in Australia. She studied at the Adelaide School of Design (1909) and the Julian Ashton School in Sydney from 1915. However, it was the years that she spent in London at the Grosvenor School, where she learnt linocut printing, and in Paris studying with André Lhote and Albert Gleizes that were to have the strongest influence on her work. During this period (1927–29) she developed a strong interest in cubist theories and Claude Flight’s principles of modern design, which emphasised geometric order and simplification of form.

Black’s exhibition at Macquarie Galleries, Sydney in 1930, was boldly modern, reflecting her passion for cubism. A year later she established the Modern Art Centre in Sydney for the purpose of exhibiting and promoting European-influenced modernism. It was the first gallery to devote itself to modernism, and over the next three years Black exhibited the work of Grace Cossington Smith, Grace Crowley, Ralph Balson, Rah Fizelle and Wakelin among others.

Following her return to Adelaide in 1940 she was appointed the Vice-Chair of the Contemporary Art Society, and in 1949, founded the modernist Group 9.

She exhibited regularly, and her work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, many state and regional galleries, and in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.