An MPRG exhibition
21 July – 17 September 2017
Constance Stokes (1906-1991) was one of the leading artists of her generation. This retrospective brings together work from her early days as an art student at the National Gallery Art School, in the late 1920s, through to paintings made in the early 1980s. The exhibition will include over 35 paintings and drawings and cover the breadth of Stokes’s artistic practice across 60 years, exploring stylistic developments and highlighting Stokes’s stunning portraiture and use of colour.
The exhibition will focus on the three key phases in Stokes’s art practice; early, mid and late career periods. In 1929 Constance Parkin won the Travelling Scholarship at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, to study for two years at the Royal Academy in London. During her time abroad, Parkin spent a period studying under the French Cubist artist André Lhote in Paris and visited the major galleries in Europe. Stokes’s early career is framed by struggles over her desire to be an artist with the expectations of marriage and family life.
Further opportunities abroad and the consolidation of her classical painting style were a feature of Stokes’s mid-career. In 1953 she was one of 12 Australian artists included in an exhibition at Burlington Galleries, London, alongside Ralph Balson, Arthur Boyd, Russell Drysdale and Sidney Nolan.
Stokes had a late career flourish in her 70s, embedding a Matisse-inspired vibrancy and freedom of form and colour into some of the strongest work she produced. The exhibition will include never before seen archival material from the artist’s estate including journals, sketchbooks, letters, photographs and drawings which give a fascinating insight into the life and career of this important artist.
Image: Constance Stokes Red Leotard c.1946 oil on composition board The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of Tristian Buesst, 1979