Australian-born Dorrit Black was a painter and printmaker who completed her formal studies at the Adelaide School of Arts and Crafts around 1914. After further education in Europe so she could acquire, in her own words, an ‘understanding of the aims and methods of the modern movement’, she returned to Australia in 1929 as a passionate advocate for modern art and dedicated the rest of her life to teaching, promoting and practising modernism in Australia.

In 1931 she established the Modern Art Centre in Margaret Street, Sydney and became the first woman in Australia to run an art gallery. She later returned to live in Adelaide and in 1939 she designed and built her own home and studio in Magill.

The Bridge is regarded as Australia’s earliest cubist landscape painting. It depicts Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction. The view is taken from Sydney’s Balls Head reserve and captures a side elevation of the two incomplete curved arches of the bridge, the harbour waters in the centre and houses in the foreground.

Black has composed this composition so that our eye moves across the picture plane from early morning dawn on left, to evening on the right. In this way, observing and referencing the cyclical nature of time and modern progress. The span of time is further symbolised through the inclusion of a nineteenth century masted clipper anchored in the harbour and the modern electricity pole.

The artist’s depiction of the Bridge captures a spirit of excitement, and celebrates the dramatic engineering advancements being made during the Great Depression and giving the Sydney community hope for the future. The Bridge is a modern response to the changing Australian landscape.

Australian Curriculum connections - Year 6 History

The contribution of individuals and groups to the development of Australian society since Federation (ACHASSK137)

Other than the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, what significant changes did Australia experience in the twentieth century? How did Australian society change as a result?

What new buildings have you seen built in recent times? How was the process documented? Did any artists capture this process? Consider buildings you see regularly, which buildings do you think will still be standing in 100 years time and why?