Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment Exhibition Hits AGSA

Back in the 1920s and 30s, modernist landscape painter Clarice Beckett was dismissed by Australian art critics. The artist’s story is textbook avant garde, given the shift in opinion of her work. She has since become hailed as a visionary in the Australian art world. Fast forward to the 1960s, and Beckett’s work had moved from largely forgotten and archived, to re-discovered and viewed with a completely different perspective by the new generation’s art critics and galleries.

Everyday scenes of Melbourne came through a tonalist lens within Clarice Beckett’s work – a tone-on-tone effect that creates a misty atmosphere in a painting.

The Art Gallery of South Australia first began collecting artworks shortly after this re-emergence, which have slowly compiled into the most comprehensive exhibition of Beckett’s work to date – including works on loan from the private collections of Russell Crowe and Ben Quilty. AGSA Director Rhana Devenport ONZM says: “The Art Gallery of South Australia is thrilled to stage this important exhibition which was initiated following the significant acquisition of 21 paintings by Clarice Beckett early in 2020, made possible thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Alastair Hunter OAM.”

130 paintings collectively form The Present Moment exhibition.

Clarice Beckett’s work is oft-associated with a timelessness, painting a sensory perception of her everyday world. The Present Moment takes visitors on a journey through one single day, and has hence been curated with chronological cohesion. Witness the first moment of sunlight through to the dusky tones after sunset, to the quiet moments of night. Ultimately, The Present Moment shows Beckett as an artist driven by impulse and a deep-seated sense of spirituality within her work.

This exhibition is part of AGSA’s ongoing pledge to promote and celebrate the work of great Australian women artists.

“Audiences experience an affinity with the art of Clarice Beckett. On one level Beckett represents the triumph of the spirit over adversity and certainly the ideal of an artist driven by something beyond worldly success. On a deeper level they sense a profound humanity, something that has united the world in such adversity over the past year,” AGSA Curator of Australian Art Tracey Lock says on the exhibition. ‘There is a certain magnetism to her paintings: an experiential quality of sound, sight or feeling that transcends language. Enveloped in diffused light and exuding peacefulness, her paintings invite a sense of stillness that points to a healing, spiritual quality.”

See the modern architecture of AGSA compliment the modernism of Clarice Beckett’s work.

Clarice Beckett: The Present Moment is on at the Art Gallery of South Australia from February 27th until May 16th. Can’t make the exhibition? Click here to browse this week’s curation on Bluethumb to discover artists inspired by this modernist artist.

10 Local Melbourne Artists You Should Know


  1. Rowan says:

    My town of Casterton where Clarice was born has a yearly art award in her name in June. I will be admitting three pieces this year. The prize money isn’t huge but still fine for such a tiny town. We’re proud of her.

  2. Helen Kelly says:

    Thanks for article. Important exhibition to highlight.
    I am curious though…
    Where were the images of her paintings in this article?? It seemed the architecture was more important than her work. I’m craving to see more of her paintings. (Maybe that was yr tactic?) Was there a reason the images chosen were largely not of the detail of her actual paintings but the cleverness of the curation? It almost seemed ‘typical’ to hide not herald the female painters work. Please explain. And thank you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *