Australian modernist Dorothy Braund pursued simplicity. It, in her own words, “knocked” her out, “There’s no chance for accidental effects. If you are simple everything has to relate and work.” This preoccupation led her to compose images more musical than visual, hymns about people, places and activities.
'Untitled (Family Holiday)'
Talents Meets Mischeif
Dorothy started her artistic career at the National Gallery School under William Dargie, Alan Sumner and Murray Griffin, winning awards for drawing and still-life painting. Impressed with her development, Sumner sent her to the George Bell School for extra study.
Here, she and fellow artist Judy Hunter successfully submitted works to the Contemporary Art Society (CAS). When it was revealed their intentions were insincere however, (they wanted to send up modernism), both were threatened with expulsion. Dorothy apologised and Hunter lawyered up.
Dorothy remained connected to George Bell for the rest of his life. He was a major figure in the development of Australian modernism, founding CAS and then the George Bell School. In all his pupils, who included Russell Drysdale, Sybil Craig, Constance Stokes and many more, he instilled a passion for art. For Dorothy, he taught her the fundamentals: “permanent structure,” never however, at the cost of beauty.
Despite the formal precision of her work, Dorothy's work is often cut by a sense of humour. In 1964, art critic Bernard Shaw described her work as lively, “linked with a shrewd and civilised eye for the bizarre and comical”. Simple, does not always necessitate seriousness. In fact, by seeing the world as an orchestra of forms, Dorothy detected its notes of absurdity, vulnerability, warmth and beauty like few others.
A Day At The Beach
One of Dorothy's favourite subjects was the beach. She painted families on holiday, their bodies made into fleshy topographies. Hunched backs range from milky to pink and lilac, increasingly abstracted totems of Australia’s most beloved pastime. The alien Anglo-Saxon body beneath a beaming Australian sun is made into a modernist masterpiece.
Dorothy's career was diverse. She taught art at three Melbourne schools, gave talks on ABC radio between 1961 and 1964, and reviewed children’s books for the Australian from 1969 to 1977. Rather than feeling held back by her gender, Dorothy stated in 1979 that she was glad “collectors aren’t interested because it means that people buy my paintings because they like them, not because they are good investments.”
'Untitled (Basking By the Sea)'
Represented across state collections, Braund is an important piece in Australian modernism. She was the only woman to exhibit alongside Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd and others in 1953 and when her mentor, George Bell, passed away it was she, not one of the men who took on his mantle. As Bernard Shaw noted, Dorothy was “masterly in her own way”. Christopher Heathcote agrees, declaring her “unjustly neglected”. No more.
Explore our full Dorothy Braund collection here.