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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Self portrait

1948
Grace Cossington Smith OBE

oil on cardboard (frame: 56.6 cm x 48.0 cm, support: 39.5 cm x 30.7 cm)

Grace Cossington Smith OBE (1892–1984) was a pioneer of modernist art in Australia. She began her training in art in 1910 in Sydney, and then spent two years studying in England. In 1915 Cossington Smith' work The sock knitter, considered to be the first post-impressionist work painted in Australia, was included in the Royal Art Society exhibition. In the late 1920s, she began work on her now celebrated series of paintings of the Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction. Following the deaths of her parents in the 1930s, Cossington Smith moved from her garden studio at her family home in Turramurra and into the main house and began to focus on intimate paintings of interiors, in which she expressed forms with colour and light. Her contribution to Australian art went largely unrecognised until, at age 81, she was honoured with a retrospective exhibition, which opened at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1973 and toured to state galleries.

Painted in 1948, Cossington Smith's self-portrait represents her vibrant use of light-infused colour and interest in structure and form. Depicting herself in the prime of her long career, the short brushstrokes, laden with paint, build up a strong colour portrait and capture the dedication she felt towards her art in her intense focused gaze and the determined set of her lips.

Purchased 2002
© Grace Cossington Smith/Copyright Agency, 2021

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.
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Audio description

2 minutes 56 seconds
Show transcript

Artist and subject

Grace Cossington Smith OBE (age 56 in 1948)

Subject professions

Visual arts and crafts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Self portrait
Self portrait
Self portrait
Self portrait

In good company

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour, 2015

Jean Appleton’s 1965 self portrait makes a fine addition to the National Portrait Gallery’s collection writes Joanna Gilmour.

Self portrait
Self portrait
Self portrait
Self portrait

Modern Australian Women

Magazine article by Gillian Raymond, 2005

Close contemporaries, Thea Proctor, Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith were frequently sources of inspiration and irritation to each other. 

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency