The world behind the artwork

Grace Cossington Smith Bridge in-curve

Where was the artwork made?

There are often direct links between what we see in an artwork and where it was made. The subject of an artwork might be inspired by a specific location or area, or the artist might use materials or processes associated with a particular place. Cultural traditions related to particular places can also influence how and why artworks are made and what they are about.

Some questions to think about
  • Are there links between what is represented in this artwork and where it was made?
  • Are there links between what the artwork is made from and how it was made, to where it was made?
  • Has the artist used materials or techniques specific to a particular place?
  • Are there symbols or materials that are culturally significant in the artwork?

For example:
Cossington Smith was born in Sydney and lived there all her life. She took her subject matter from the world around her. Bridge in-curve depicts Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction and was painted from Milsons Point on the North Shore. Her painting captures the sense of anticipation which many people felt as they watched the giant arms of the bridge edge closer together.

When was the artwork made?

There are often direct links between what we see in an artwork and when it was made. The subject of an artwork might be inspired by a specific event, or the artist might use materials or techniques associated with the technology of a particular period.

The political, social, religious and artistic values and ideas of a particular time can also influence how and why artworks are made and what they are about.

Some questions to think about
  • Does the artwork link to significant events or individuals of the time it was made?
  • Does the artwork reflect the social values, views or ideas of the time it was made?
  • Does the artwork reflect the technology of the time it was made in its content or in how it was made?
  • How does this artwork relate to other artworks of the time? Is it typical of its time, or did it break with tradition?

For example:
The construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge began in 1925 and was completed in 1932. The bridge was considered a marvel of modern engineering and during the economic depression that began in the late 1920s the bridge became a national symbol of hope and prosperity. The painting’s bright colours and radiating light reflects this sense of optimism.

Who made the artwork?

In getting to know an artwork, it helps to get to know its creator, the artist. What are their ideas about art or the artwork you’re looking at? And what are the connections between the artwork and the artist’s own life? For example, the subject of an artwork might be inspired by an event or experience in the artist’s life, or the artist’s personal beliefs.

It may also be significant if more than one artist worked on the artwork, or if the artist is unknown or anonymous – this may indicate that the artwork was made at a time when the individual identity of the artist was not considered important.

Some questions to think about
  • Did the artist express ideas about art or this artwork? How do these relate to what you see in this artwork?
  • Does the artwork’s title provide a clue about the artist’s intended meaning? What makes you think this?
  • Can the artwork be linked to the artist’s personal beliefs, or experiences or events in their life? If so, what are the links and how are they evident in the artwork?

For example:
Cossington Smith thought it was important for artists to paint modern city life. She also took a modern approach to painting. Her paintings became increasingly colourful from the mid 1920s and she began to use short, obvious brushstrokes that add great energy to her paintings.


Grace Cossington Smith

Bridge in-curve

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