Dorrit Black

Dorrit Black was one of the most important Australian modernists, advancing and promoting the cause of modern art in Australia through her practice, advocacy and teaching.

Dorrit Black: Unseen Forces is the largest retrospective ever staged of the artist’s work and is the first exhibition in nearly forty years to reassess Black’s contribution to the story of Australian art.

The Art Gallery of South Australia is presenting a comprehensive survey exhibition of Black’s work from 14 June 2014 that will celebrate her life work alongside a concurrent exhibition celebrating another Adelaide-born artist – Mortimer Menpes.

Mortimer Menpes was South Australia’s first artist to have a successful international career. He was born in Port Adelaide and moved to London in 1875. The first retrospective of the artist’s work ever held The World of Mortimer Menpes: painter, etcher, raconteur features over 250 works of art including paintings, prints and a never before seen sketchbook.

The two exhibitions reveal the pioneering role that each artist played, albeit in different circles and at different times. These two retrospectives, running from Saturday 14 June to Sunday 7 September 2014, will celebrate the life work of wo influential, Adelaide-born artists.

Mortimer Menpes and Dorrit Black were both painters and printmakers who shared a common desire to travel the world to develop their careers in art. Although a generation apart they both shared a love of recording the ordinary and natural world.

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 will be the largest retrospective ever staged of the artist’s work and will be 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 will showcase 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 will feature 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 is accompanied by a full colour illustrated monograph outlining the artist’s 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.

Dorrit Black: Unseen Forces
14 June to 7 September, 2014
Art Gallery of South Australia


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