Ingrams Green, Sussex

Born Sydney, Australia 1892, died Sydney 1984


Grace Cossington Smith was one of Australia’s foremost modernists, and her painting of The Sock Knitter (1915), completed when she was twenty-two years old, is often referred to as the first truly modernist Australian painting. She is highly regarded as a colourist, and produced many lively works depicting domestic interiors, landscapes and scenes around Sydney. Her paintings are often characterised by her use of small square brushstrokes with which she applied colour, creating a mosaic-like effect and imparting a liveliness to each image. Influenced by Paul Cézanne, Cossington Smith painted many plein air landscapes, taking small canvases outside and working in front of her subject to maintain a direct connection.

Cossington Smith’s training was at Dattilo-Rubbo’s School, Sydney (1909–12 and 1914–26). During her career she visited the UK and Europe several times, exhibiting at the Royal Academy, London, the New English Art Club and Walker Gallery. From 1932 her work was also exhibited regularly in Sydney at the Macquarie Galleries.

With fellow modernist painters Roland Wakelin and Roy de Maistre she formed the Contemporary Group which was influential in promoting modernist ideas in Sydney.

Cossington Smith’s work has been included in survey exhibitions and has been the subject of a major retrospective, Grace Cossington Smith: 1892–1984, at the National Gallery of Australia, 2005 and touring. Her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, all state galleries and many regional galleries.