"Victors" and "Victims": Men, Women, Modernism and Art

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It is relatively easy to misread the history of artistic modernism in Australia. Glance at a handful of key sources, and they all seem to tell the story of a battle: in the years between the two world wars the Australian art establishment was run by a band of big bad traditionalists — art historian Bernard Smith likens them to
the priests of Leviticus — who were at first irritated and later seriously threatened by a bunch of critical young innovators. The story of the emergence of modern art in Australia seems to be about the victory of the innovators. It is something of an
historical trope that 'it is the victors who write history'. Four key art histories in one way or another present this story of victory: Australian Painting by Bernard Smith; Rebels and Precursors by Richard Haese; The Innovators by Geoffrey Dutton; and The Black Swan of Trespass by Humphrey McQueen. In the victory
story, women modernists appear as marginal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number80
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


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