Grace Crowley

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Grace Crowley
Grace Adela Williams Crowley

(1890-05-28)28 May 1890
Died21 April 1979(1979-04-21) (aged 88)
EducationMethodist Ladies College
Parent(s)Elizabeth (née Bridger) and Henry Crowley
RelativesClive Crowley

Grace Crowley (pr: as in "slowly") (28 May 1890 – 21 April 1979) was an Australian artist and modernist painter.[1]

Early life[edit]

Grace Adela Williams Crowley was born on 28 May 1890 at Forrest Lodge, Barraba, in North-Western New South Wales,[1] she was the fourth child of Henry, a grazier, and Elizabeth (née Bridger).[1] At about the age of 13 Crowley's parents sent one of her pen and ink drawings to New Idea magazine and she won a prize,[1] but her career as an artist was not wholeheartedly supported - sometimes even actively opposed, by her family.[1][This observation may not be entirely accurate. There is evidence that Grace's family were proud of her accomplishments and financed her studies, including her time in France, it is no doubt true, however, that Grace felt misunderstood by her family. They seem to have been generally baffled by the modernist theories she subscribed to after Paris and teasingly lamented her growing interest in abstraction. There may also have been mutterings about her protracted absences, which meant that the burden of an ailing mother fell on the shoulders of others until she was eventually summoned home. < Skeletons, 2001, unpublished family history by Eena Job, who was Grace's niece. >] From 1905 until 1907, Crowley attended the Methodist Ladies College now MLC School, in Burwood, New South Wales.[2]


Crowley studied in Paris in 1927 with the Cubist André Lhote,[3] and took part in Exhibition I in 1939, the self-proclaimed first show of abstract art in Australia. Others in her circle included Ralph Balsom, Dorrit Black, Rah Fizelle, Frank Hinder and her best friend, ceramicist Anne Dangar. The Artist and his model (1938)[4] The subject of Crowley's painting is fellow artist Ralph Balson, painting an elegantly posed model on the roof terrace of Crowley's studio in George Street, Sydney. Revealing a disintegration of figurative forms and division of the pictorial space into decorative areas, this work signalled a growing commitment, shared by both artists, towards complete abstraction. In 1939 Crowley and Balson participated in the important Exhibition I at David Jones Art Gallery, Sydney which summarised the concerns of local painters of the 1930s, then moving towards geometric abstraction.

With other participating artists including Rah Fizelle, Frank Hinder and Eleonore Lange, Balson and Crowley came together in the 1930s as leaders of the second phase of the modern movement in Australian art, developing the earlier ideas of Roland Wakelin, Roy de Maistre and others at the beginning of World War I.

During a period of study in Europe, Crowley was influenced particularly by her studies with French Cubist painter André Lhote whose teaching emphasised the importance of subsuming colour to geometric structure; the Crowley-Fizelle school, subsequently established with Rah Fizelle to teach the principles and practice of modern art according to these constructionist, cubist-inspired principles, became the principle centre for modernist painting in Sydney until its closure in 1937.

There was an exhibition of her work at the National Gallery of Australia in December 2006 to May 2007 called Grace Crowley - Being modern.[3]


Crowley died at her home in Manly, New South Wales on 21 April 1979 aged 89, she left a body of work comprising 25 paintings and 12 drawings.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Crowley, Grace Adela Williams (1890 - 1979)". Australian Dictionary of Biography On-line Edition. Retrieved 2007-07-23.
  2. ^ Grace Crowley’s Contribution to Australian Modernism and Geometric Abstraction Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Grace Crowley - Being Modern". National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 2007-07-23.
  4. ^ Crowley, Grace (1938). "The artist and his model". AGNSW collection record. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 9 May 2016.



  • Symposium papers: Colour in art - revisiting 1919 & R-Balson (2008), Nick Waterlow (Australia) (Curator), Annabel Pegus (Australia) (Curator), Ivan Dougherty Gallery (Australia, estab. 1977), Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Grace Crowley: being modern (2006), Elena Taylor (Author), National Gallery of Australia (Australia, estab. 1982), Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
  • Parallel visions: works from the Australian collection (2002), Barry Pearce (Australia) (Author), Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874), Domain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (2000), Barry Pearce (Australia) (Author), Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874), Domain, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Brought to light: Australian Art 1850-1965 (1998), Lynne Seear (Australia) (Editor), Julie Ewington (Australia) (Editor), Queensland Art Gallery (Australia, estab. 1895), South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
  • The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections (1994), Ewen McDonald (Australia) (Editor), Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Ralph Balson A Retrospective (Jul 1989), Bruce Adams (Author), Heide Park and Art Gallery (Australia, estab. 1980, closed 1992), Bulleen, Victoria, Australia.
  • Project 4: Grace Crowley (1975), Daniel Thomas (Curator), Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia, estab. 1874), Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

External links[edit]