Art historian Mary Eagle once described Australian modernist Sybil Craig as “devastatingly direct” and “almost overwhelmingly vital”. She was born a tomboy to affluent parents and in 1945, was the third woman ever to be appointed an official war artist, the first to paint women working in the munitions factories.
As an official war artist, she produced bright, vivacious scenes of women at work grounded in her pedagogy under the esteemed Bernard Hall and George Bell. At home however, she allowed herself to experiment, creating “exercises” she withheld from sale. These works, of which Cacti and Shells is an example, are instinctive and marvellous – a burst of modernity from circa 1935.
On a fellowship from the State Library of Victoria, playwright Monica Raszewski developed a play about Craig. Her work ruminates on the division between public and private – what must be exhibited to the world, and what is privately felt. In this elegant watercolour, this tension lingers. It is demure but bright, daring yet slight.
Represented at the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, State Library of Victoria and across regional galleries, Craig is a luminous yet under-observed figure of Australian modernism. She will enrich collections of important works on paper and female artists.
In this miraculous drawing lies a person and history deserving of our attention.
Sybil CRAIG (1901 - 1989)
'Cacti and Shells' circa 1935
watercolour on paper
Image Size: 14 x 9 cm
Dimensions: 28 x 21 cm
Signed: Signed 'Sybil Craig'; possibly titled and dated verso
Condition: Very Good: Image quality is good, slight discolouration and marking on edges of paper.
Work is mounted and wrapped.
© The Artist or Assignee