When art galleries reopened I was 2nd in line at a safe, 1.5 meters of social distancing queue. I went to the Bendigo Art Gallery, a fine gold-era building in one of Victoria’s regional cities. It punches above its weight in attracting world class exhibitions. Because of inspired arts leadership, Bendigo Art Gallery has attracted major exhibitions from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and other renowned galleries across the world.
This visit showed a more modest exhibition by two women artists- Bessie Davidson and Sally Smart. Fifty works tell the story of two Australian women artists and their role in shaping the direction of art in this country.
Bessie Davidson was an Australian artist who, at the turn of the century lived Paris and the great cultural capitals of Europe and returned to Australia with a modern french impressionist influence clearly visible in her paintings. In Paris in 1920’s and 1930’s she established herself as an artist of some renown and exhibited widely in various salons.
Bessie was rumoured to be Margaret Preston’s lover and the two women made a significant contribution to the Australian art scene.
Davidson was a fine colourist as this painting shows.
Interior with Poppies 1937
Bessie Davidson was Sally Smart’s great aunt and she retraced her aunt’s travels in Paris. Sally Smart returned with her own works responding to the cultural legacy of this pioneering woman artist and layering in her own explorations using mixed media. She works in video installation and also montage and collage. Smart explores the female body, current thinking and culture and the relationships between these 3 elements.
This exhibition is well worth a visit and can als be explored via the youtube link below.