l-r. Grace CROWLEY <em>Abstract painting </em>1952 and Ralph BALSON <em>Abstraction</em> 1951

Grace Crowley
& Ralph Balson

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square

Level 3

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Until 22 Sep | Free entry

Open 10am–5pm daily

Instrumental in the development of abstract art in Australia, Grace Crowley and Ralph Balson were extraordinary artists whose collaborative practice resulted in two of the most compelling bodies of work in Australian art history.

Crowley studied in Paris between 1926 and 1929 with Cubist artists André Lhote and Albert Gleizes, and her style was greatly influenced by their Cubist teaching. Upon her return to Sydney, Crowley played a pivotal role in the dissemination of modernist principles. English-born Balson, a trained plumber and house painter, moved to Australia when he was twenty-three. He enrolled in weekend classes at Julian Ashton’s Sydney Art School in the early 1920s, where he was taught by Crowley.

In 1932, Crowley established an art school with fellow artist Rah Fizelle. With its premises on George Street, Sydney, the Crowley-Fizelle School attracted artists including Balson and Margel and Frank Hinder who were becoming increasingly interested in abstraction.

Crowley and Balson were included in the seminal show Exhibition 1, the inaugural display of semi-abstract painting and sculpture in Australia, which was held at David Jones Gallery in 1939. Two years later, Balson held a solo exhibition at Anthony Horden’s Fine Art Gallery, the first exhibition comprised entirely of pure abstraction to be exhibited in the country.

During this intensely experimental phase, the two artists became closer in painting style and direction and this artistic partnership continued until Balson’s death in 1964. Grace Crowley & Ralph Balson charts their move into pure abstraction and the significant role they played in shaping the modern art movement.