Friday, January 25, 2013


Australians All Let Us Rejoice.... the first line of our National Anthem.
Today, January 26, is Australia Day, and we celebrate our nationhood..

The lovely Golden Wattle is our National Floral Emblem...

 Australian artist Sir William Dargie painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth in 1954, to mark her first Royal Tour to Australia ...

and her gift from Australia was the Wattle Brooch of yellow diamonds:

Her Majesty has worn it on many subsequent tours, usually with a sunny yellow ensemble, a tribute to our Australian sunshine and wattle.

Albert Namatjira, Google Images

Albert Namatjira (1902-59), the first Australian indigenous artist to achieve national recognition, met the Queen during the '54 tour.
Namatjira's vivid watercolour landscapes of Central Australia caused great excitement when first exhibited during the 1940s, and by the 50s, prints of his work hung on the walls of many Australian homes (including my own).
Later, as happens, his work went out of fashion (it was essentially figurative) but these days there is a renewed appreciation of his painting and his ability to capture the heart and soul of the red centre of Australia.

Google Images

Margaret Preston (1875-1963) was a modernist artist with an interest in the development of a national style for Australian art.

Margaret Preston Self Portrait 1930.  Google images.
She sought to blend the motifs and colouration she observed in the art produced by indigenous Aboriginal Australians, with a modern aesthetic with influences of print-making and cubism.

Some interesting work resulted:

Flying over the Shoalhaven River, 1942.
A landscape with a hint of the aerial perspective frequently seen in indigenous Central Desert art, and areas of scattered dotting, another aboriginal motif, and of course the ochre colour.  But it is not a copy of anything produced by the indigenous community, and neither is it conventional European Modernism of its time.
Margaret Preston was inventing her own pictorial language.

The Brown Pot, 1940, features tough, native banksia flowers,
painted in 'native' dots and dashes and ochre colours.
There are elements of cubism in this work.
Preston was trying to infiltrate Aboriginal art into the domestic and fine arts of the era.

Aboriginal Still Life, 1940, features two Rainforest Shields, an indigenous painting genre from North Queensland.

Ultimately, Preston's brave attempt to forge a national style for Australian art came to nothing.  The designs meant nothing to the Aboriginal people, because to them they were meaningless oddments and references.
The paintings, attractive and of museum quality, have found a place in the history of art but they are a curiousity of their era.
Like the Government's policy at that time, Assimilation of the indigenous into the European community, it simply did not work and the nation has moved on.

Australia is now multi-cultural, and we celebrate our differences - in art as well as everything else.

and have a Wonderful Weekend!



  1. What a lovely post Patricia - so many interesting facts and pictures here. Now is golden wattle similar to the bush I am familiar with - mimosa? I love the red flower at the end, but have never seen it before, it is glorious when you clicked on the image.
    I had no idea about the yellow diamond brooch, and I must say the Queen does look rather fetching in yellow.
    Sometimes paintings from the indigenous population of Australia turn up on the Antique Roadshow, and I know that Aboriginal art is extremely collectible and highly sort after.
    What a pity that Margaret Preston was not celebrated more, I find her work really interesting and particularly like the painting Flying over the Shoalhaven River, 1942. It is interesting the way she combined the colours of the Aboriginal art with her own style. Thanks for the introduction.

  2. Thank you Rosemary, I enjoyed putting this post together. I remember the yellow diamond brooch from when I was a child, as my mother always pointed out things like that to me. I've never seen an Aboriginal art piece on the Antiques Roadshow, but I'll look out now, as I am quite curious as to how they approach the subject. Margaret Preston is an old favourite of mine, and I wrote essays about her at every opportunity when I was an art history student. Like you, I find the Shoalhaven River work particularly note-worthy. The red flower at the end is from an Australian gum tree, and Preston painted them too. I'll have to find a way to show some of her other (not ochre!) paintings..

    1. Oops, Rosemary, wattle is also called mimosa sometimes. I know it appears in other countries but maybe Australia has its own particular species.

  3. What a wonderful and caring idea to talk about an aborigenal artist on Australia Day ; it is far from being common ! The fact that the Aborigenes didn't understand his art just show how difficult it is for two cultures which are so different to understand each other. It's a sad sad story ... The Queen's brooch is beautiful but then I'm very partial to mimosa !.. Have a beautiful week-end !x

    1. Thank you Silver Bunny; I think the Aboriginal people of this country make a wonderful contribution to the arts, and having mentioned the work of the past, am planning future posts on the development of indigenous art over the past forty years. Have you seen the work in the Quai Branly museum, which was done by some Australian artists? I'd love to go there ...
      Mimosa is delightful, isn't it? x

  4. Happy Australia Day, Patricia, and thank you for this fascinating post with its gorgeous photos. Like Rosemary I knew nothing about the wattle brooch or Aboriginal art and had never heard of Margaret Preston, but your post left me wanting to find out more. Your native plants are so beautiful and I love it when you show them to us.

    1. Thank you Perpetua, it has become a very different Australia Day weekend this year. Cyclonic weather has now come to Brisbane with lots of rain and lashing winds, with tornados forecast. Many events have been cancelled. I will write more about the art of Australia, as a celebration of our nation. I wonder if the Queen ever wears the wattle brooch in the UK ??

  5. Hello Patricia

    How lovely to meet you in blogland.
    Thank you for coming over the ditch and joining my blog!

    I’ve had a little look around but I’ll be back soon – once Vicki’s "Grow Your Blog" party winds down!
    The little corner of your verandah looks like a great place to sit and share a cup of tea and chat with you!
    I would love to live in an old Queenslander house - love the lattice and verandahs!♥

    AUSTRALIANS rejoice indeed – of course you are all so very close to the hearts of all New Zealanders especially our ANZACS. As nations we have so much in common – a cousin kind of feeling!
    Happy Australia Day!!
    I’m emailing you too.

    Shane ♥

    1. Hello Shane, and welcome to my blog. We were over the ditch quite recently, looking at Hobbiton! Yes, our nations have a lot of shared history, and definitely feel like cousins, if not siblings.. I have looked at Vicki's blog quickly but did not quite understand the Grow Your Blog party (ie, how it works). Will revisit later. Thank you for your lovely email, and I'll write back to you soon. Hugs across the Tasman, P.

  6. Have a wonderful Australia Day... friends in Brisbane have told me its been cancelled because of "Pommie weather"..... hope all is well with you and you are able to celebrate in fine style. Jx

    1. Ha ha Janice, you could call it Pommie weather, but with tornados forecast today it is getting rather out of hand. Our street barbeque scheduled for Monday is not looking very promising at the moment, but I'm baking for it anyway! Px

  7. I hope you enjoyed your Australia Day ( I´m late in commenting (;.
    Wonderful pictures, including the portrait of the Queen and the piece of jewelry.
    Great to have had a glimpse of the art too!!

  8. Thanks Mette, Australia Day is officially 26 January, but we tend to make a long weekend of it, with Monday a public holiday. It is usually hot and sunny, but here we are drowning in winds and rain. Talk about a contrast! Hubby is out in the wind weather security things down around the swimming pool. I'll be keeping dry and sewing today!

  9. Thank you for introducing us to these two artists and their very interesting work. The Golden Wattle is beautiful; have seen the name mentioned in gardening books but have never seen the plant. Isn't the Queen beautiful in that portrait, as is the Wattle Brooch as well. Happy Australia Day.

  10. What a beautiful flower with such an odd name - Golden Wattle. Sort of a Turkey look to it. Albert Namatjira sounds close to a Japanese name. Love that picture. Stay safe and dry in the coming storm!

  11. I hope you had a great Australia Day! That's a wonderful portrait of the Queen.

  12. Enjoyed your informative post. The Golden Wattle looks like a beautiful tree and the @ueen's broach is really beautiful. Hope you had a great weekend.


  13. Thank you ladies - I am finally back on line after losing electricity supply from Sunday night to Wednesday morning, due to floods and cyclone. Will blog later after disposing of food in refrigerators, and attempting to dry out waterlogged house!

  14. Oh no, Patricia,thank goodness you're safe! I'm so very sorry to hear this and hope that you can get the damage repaired and your home restored as soon as possible.

  15. Sorry to come so late to this informative post,love the colours of the Aboriginal art.

    I met Reg Campbell,the Australian portrait artist,when he came to England to paint the Queen in 1968,for the Australian parliament.

    Heard that the East coast of Queensland around Rockhampton under threat from flooding yet again.Hope all is well with you.Ida

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