Adelaide born Dorrit Black (1891-1951) is one of Australia’s most important modern artists and was at the forefront of bringing modern art to Australia from Europe in 1929. Against a reactionary tide, she maintained a determined commitment to practising, promoting and teaching modern art while sustaining a strong desire to express her own artistic vision.
Black studied in London and Paris in the 1920s with leading modern art teachers such as the British linocut printmaker Claude Flight and French cubists André Lhote and Albert Gleizes. Her European artistic experiences inspired her to establish the landmark Modern Art Centre in Sydney in 1931.
When Black returned to live in Adelaide at the end of 1933 she became an influential artistic figure both as an inspirational teacher and as a pioneer of South Australian modernism. Although somewhat isolated in Adelaide, her personal work gained in strength and individuality and despite actively exhibiting, audiences were not ready for the sometimes unforgiving power of her work. Sadly, she sold few works in her lifetime and never experienced great financial success or widespread recognition. Her tragic sudden death in a car accident in 1951 at the age of fifty-nine further contributed to her steady neglect.
This exhibition was the largest retrospective ever staged of the artist’s work and was the first exhibition in nearly forty years to reassess Dorrit Black’s contribution to the story of Australian art. While better-known as a pioneering printmaker, this exhibition showcased the full breadth of her artistic virtuosity and demonstrate the artist’s remarkable talent as a draughtswoman, watercolourist and oil painter of unprecedented force.
Two hundred works featured in the exhibition encompassing all media and with a focus on still life, portraiture and landscape. The works are drawn from the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection and other public and private collections from across the nation.
The exhibition was accompanied by a full colour illustrated monograph outlining the artist’s extraordinary life and artistic output. Based on several years of research and written by the exhibition curator, Tracey Lock-Weir, the monograph reveals Dorrit Black as an artist of unsuspected importance.