An exhibition comprising more than 130 paintings by a Casterton artist was opened at the Art Gallery of SA on the weekend. The gallery is presenting the most comprehensive retrospective ever staged of Clarice Beckett, one of Australia’s most enigmatic and admired modernist painters.
“Clarice Beckett: The present moment” sees works by the artist on display as part of the 2021 Adelaide Festival. Associated with a legendary story of rediscovery, Clarice Beckett is today celebrated for her ethereal, atmospheric landscape paintings that capture the commonplace.
Ms Beckett died at the age of 48 in 1935 and for the next 35 years her work vanished from art history before being rescued by Dr Rosalind Hollinrake. Dr Hollinrake salvaged 369 of the artist’s neglected canvases from a remote, open-sided shed in rural Victoria.
Dr Hollinrake’s extensive research and promotion led to Ms Beckett’s recognition as a major force in Australian modernism. The gallery acquired Dr Hollinrake’s collection of 21 works last year, some of which were painted on the backs of corn flakes boxes.
“The present moment” includes many of the salvaged paintings, as well as her master works drawn from national public collections as well as private collections including Russell Crowe and Ben Quilty. Misunderstood in her lifetime, “The present moment” presents Beckett as a visionary mystic who saw nature as all powerful and as an artist driven by spiritual impulses rather than worldly success.