‘Coastal gums’ also known as ‘Australian gum blossoms’
Flowers in jug

Born Adelaide, Australia 1875, died Sydney 1963

Margaret Preston’s brightly coloured flower and still-life paintings and prints made her a leading artist of the modernist movement in Australia. Trained at the National Gallery School, Melbourne (1893–97) she experienced life and art abroad, spending time in Europe, New Caledonia, South East Asia, Africa and India over her career.

Preston was a passionate and vocal supporter of modern art and frequently wrote and lectured on the topic. Well received in Sydney, her work and writings were regularly featured in publications such as Art in Australia and Home. In 1929 a portfolio of Preston’s work was published, and that same year she was commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales to paint a self portrait for their collection.

Preston’s images reflect her appreciation of Australian flora, elevating native banksias and gum blossoms to still-life status. A typically modern painting, Coastal gums (1929), created in her Mosman residence, emphasises geometric design and colour contrast.

In 2005 the Art Gallery of New South Wales held the major retrospective, Margaret Preston: Art and Life. Her paintings and prints have been represented in several survey exhibitions including The Great Australian Art Exhibition 1788–1988, Art Gallery of South Australia and touring all state galleries (1988–89) and Face of Australia (1988), and can be found in many state, regional and public collections throughout Australia.