Part 1: Important Fine Art
26 November 2014


born 1960

hand painted and incised woodblock

92.0 x 122.0 cm

$45,000 - 60,000
Sold for $78,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 37 - 26 November 2014, Melbourne

Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney (partial label attached verso)
Private collection, New South Wales


Crayford, P., (ed.), The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell, Public Pictures Pty Ltd, Sydney, 2008, p. 349, cat. W9201

Catalogue text

Celebrating the hidden treasures of her own immediate world, Cressida Campbell belongs to a prestigious tradition of still life artists - from Matisse and Bonnard, to Morandi - who find inspiration, beauty and a rich sense of humanity in the most prosaic of subject matter. Within the history of Australian art moreover, her oeuvre bears unmistakable affinities with the achievements of her longtime friend and supporter, Margaret Olley, who similarly pursued a 'decorative' art for our times, distilling the commonplace into timeless, life-sustaining compositions of extraordinary harmony and integrity. Whether capturing kitchen utensils on a magnetic rack, sea creatures on a platter, or the twisted branches of gum trees in the landscape (as featured here in Berry Island, 1992), indeed Campbell's images radiate with the joy of their own making, reminding her audience once more of the simple pleasure of 'looking'. As Edmund Capon elaborates, 'in a world of contemporary art so conditioned by issues, portentous "statements" egos and the passing foibles of fashion, her work is a delight to behold, reaffirming as it does, the opportunity for beauty and intimacy in the most familiar of subjects.'1

More comfortable nestled within the tranquil oasis of her Bronte studio than negotiating the bustling Sydney art scene, Campbell has always been a very private artist - no doubt because her childhood was subjected to an unusual degree of public scrutiny as the daughter of Ross Campbell, the famous Sydney columnist widely known for his chronicles of family life published in The Daily Telegraph, The Bulletin, and The Australian Woman's Weekly.2 From her earliest days as an art student, she realised the fashionable circles of the avant-garde was not her preference and, indeed, attended Sydney College of the Arts for barely three days. Campbell subsequently pursued studies at East Sydney Tech (today the National Art School) where she discovered the unique printmaking technique for which she would become so highly revered, and in 1983 she began exhibiting her prints with Mori Gallery, Sydney. In 1989, she joined Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney with whom she still exhibits today; she has also held numerous successful exhibitions with Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane and, from 2001, with Angela Nevill in London. In 2008, an impressive monograph detailing her woodblock painting was published, and in 2009 her achievements were honoured with the major survey exhibition Timeless: The Art of Cressida Campbell at S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney and QUT Art Museum, Brisbane.

In contrast to many contemporary artists who embrace printmaking as a means to increase the accessibility of their practice, Campbell has, since 1987, always created her prints in editions of one - a decision that necessarily evokes a more personal, intimate experience of her art. A painstaking, intensely laborious process involving both painting and printing, her innovative technique begins with a detailed line drawing on plywood, after which the design is carefully carved out with an engraving tool from Kyoto. Employing an almost cloisonné approach, waterbased paints are then applied in several coats to the defined segments; the image is 'freshened' with a spray of water to create variations of tone and texture, and a single impression is taken. Thus, the final result is one original painted woodblock and one print - its mirror image. With its expertly crafted subtleties of colour, pattern and composition, Berry Island, 1992 is a superb example of not only Campbell's highly skilful technique, but her prodigious talent for transforming the mundane into utterly serene, aesthetically pleasing images reminiscent of the world encapsulated in Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. Indeed, that the present work is universally considered among her most accomplished compositions is attested by the print from this woodblock being awarded both the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trustees' Watercolour Prize and the Pring Memorial Prize, in addition to being selected as a finalist for the Wynne Prize (1992).

1. Capon, E., 'Foreword', in Crayford, P., (ed.), The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell,Public Pictures Pty Ltd, Sydney, 2008, p. 7
2. MacDonald, J., 'Introduction', in Crayford, ibid., p. 12