Interior (my room), 1933, gelatin silver photograph, pencil & ink

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Accession number 414.1997

Olive Cotton


Image and description from the Art Gallery of New South Wales: “If [my] interest in light and line, form and composition and, a further element of meaning, a feeling, all came together (no matter what the subject) that for me was a moment of great excitement.’ Olive Cotton 

Olive Cotton developed an interest in photography while at high school and became a member of the Photographic Society of New South Wales. After study at the University of Sydney, she joined the photographic studio of Max Dupain in 1934. While working as Dupain’s assistant, she continued taking her own photographs, eventually receiving international recognition with the inclusion of her work in the London Salon of Photography for 1935 and 1937. During the Second World War, with Dupain away on service, she managed his studio. During the mid 1940s, however, remarried and with a young family, she moved away from Sydney and stopped taking ‘serious’ photographs. She resumed her professional career in 1963. A survey exhibition in 1985 established her as one of the most important photographers of her time.

Cotton recalled that this photograph was taken at the family home: ‘When we were young my sister Joyce and I shared this room. Its stained-glass windows had a simple floral motif which cast attractive shadows on the wall in the late afternoon.’3 The play of light and shadow, which is such a remarkable feature of this work, recalls Edward Weston’s celebrated image ‘Epilogue’ 1919 which may have been known to Cotton by 1934. Unlike Cotton’s better known images, such as ‘Teacup ballet’ 1935 (AGNSW collection), which use consciously modern techniques of dramatic lighting and distorted vantage points, this image, with its fine tonal contrasts and slightly Japonisme flavour, sits firmly within the pictorialist tradition. The AGNSW has recently acquired a variation of ‘My room’ taken at a different time of day and with darker, intense shadows.  1. From an undated note found in her Cowra studio. See Ennis H 2004, ‘Intersections: photography, history and the National Library of Australia’, National Library of Australia, Canberra p 164 2. Hall B 1985, ‘Olive Cotton – photographs 1924–1984’, Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney 3. Ennis H 1995, ‘Olive Cotton: photographer’, National Library of Australia, Canberra p 36  © Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007”


Christian Waller  (Australia 02 Aug 1894 – 25 May 1954)

Title: The great breath; a book of seven designs

Year:  1932

Media categories:  Book, Print Materials used:  linocuts, black ink on tracing paper, tipped onto thick cream wove paper

Edition:  circa 30

Dimensions:  31.9 x 13.5 cm blockmark; 43.5 x 47.7 cm each sheet

Signature & date:  Not signed. Not dated.

Credit:  Gift of Klytie Pate 1975

Accession number:  250.1975

Copyright© Klytie W Pate

Description from Art Gallery of New South Wales ( "Christian Waller (née Yandell) was born at Castlemaine in 1894. Her family moved to Bendigo in 1908, and the following year at the age of fourteen she had an oil painting exhibited at the Bendigo Art Gallery. In 1910 she enrolled in the drawing class at the National Gallery School, Melbourne under Frederick McCubbin, and in 1912 in the painting school under Bernard Hall. She met her husband Napier Waller while a student; they married in 1915. She is best known as a book and magazine illustrator, printmaker and stained glass designer; her relief prints were principally made in the 1920s.

In 1929 the Wallers made a trip to Europe. Shortly after their return to Melbourne in 1930, they befriended Tatlock Miller, who owned a bookshop in Geelong; in the next few years he assisted with the production of a number of Christian Waller’s books and prints; she contributed to the initial editions of his literary and artistic magazine Manuscripts (published from November 1931). Miller established the Golden Arrow Press, the first release of which was The great breath, published in April 1932, priced at £3.3.0 each.

The production of ‘The great breath’ was entirely undertaken by Waller; all aspects from the cutting and printing of the linoblocks to the manufacture of the distinctive gold-painted emerald green cover was done by hand. She printed the blocks on her 1849 hand-press in her studio at Ivanhoe, each book taking about four days to make, hand-bound with green cord. Although it was intended to produce an edition of 150, it seems only about 30 were made, with some unbound impressions extant, usually untrimmed. Each consisted of a title page, colophon, contents page and seven linocut designs. The images were printed in solid black on white translucent tracing paper, trimmed and tipped onto the cream pages. The books were not numbered sequentially, but rather in relation to the numerology of the buyer - the Gallery’s copy was a gift of Klytie Pate, Waller’s niece.

Christian Waller was a Theosophist, beliefs which inform 'The great breath’; in particular the Golden Dawn Movement. The central theme of the book is the evolution of the human race, based on the writings of Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophist movement, in particular her book 'The secret doctrine’ (1888-97); the introduction stated 'A book of seven designs, each design a symbolic rendering of the impulse behind an individual Root Race of the present world cycle’. The designs draw upon ancient Egyptian and Greek imagery, and symbolism from a number of sources including the Zodiac, as well as art deco and modernist design. 'The lords of the flame’ is the third image in the book; 'The lords of the flame made man a living soul in the Lemurian third race’.

Two pencil studies for The lords of the flame are in the National Gallery of Australia, with other studies for the book. There is a second copy of the book in the Gallery library (number 43). The engraved linoblock is in the collection of the Castlemaine Art Gallery. In 1978 Gryphon Books published a facsimile edition in slightly smaller format, limited to 600 copies, signed by Klytie Pate.

Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'Australian prints in the Gallery’s collection’, AGNSW, 1998"  Description and images:

Artemis: Click through images for details.   For more about theosophy see wiki:  HERE  

I went to the gallery and thought I’d look at some of Roberts’ stuff. I freaked out for a second thinking that someone had vandalised the painting with a crude dick in the shearer’s hand until I went up closer and saw that that was just how the clippers were shaped…

John Kaldor Family Gallery

The opening of the modern and contemporary art wing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales was highly anticipated. It is fabulous that such an amount of space under AGNSW was able to be utilised, allowing for the John Kaldor Family Gallery to come into existence.
(Photos taken June 2011.)

Siebterjulizweitausendundaiull (2000) by Ugo Rondinone.