The Japanese print that influenced Margaret Preston and Cressida Campbell

Despite working in different styles across painting and printmaking, renowned Australian artists Margaret Preston (1875—1963) and the contemporary Cressida Campbell each have an affinity for the Japanese ukiyo-e print. Initially, Preston was inspired by what she saw on her travels through Europe and Asia in the early 1900s, while Campbell studied Japanese woodblock printing at Tokyo’s Yoshida Hanga Academy in the 1980s.

Focusing on these similarities, curator Lisa Sullivan has brought a selection of their work together with historical ukiyo-e prints drawn from the Geelong Gallery collection and further afield. Viewing all the works together, one can see how both Preston and Campbell applied what they had learned of the Japanese print to their own work as they created landscapes and florals from Sydney locales like Mosman, Sydney Harbour and Pyrmont.

Utagawa Kunisada, Actor with fire-fly cage c. 1848–52, colour woodblock print on paper. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. Purchased 1992. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation.

“Margaret tended to work on a smaller scale with a bold, dark outline which was then hand-coloured on the print,” explains Sullivan. “In comparison, Cressida’s outlines are less dramatic, as she carves them into the block, watercolouring the surface and pulling a print—she sees the woodblock and print as having equal status.”

The domestic interior is also a common thread running through the exhibition. “Many of Cressida’s images contain intimate domestic scenes that often depict the ukiyo-e she has in her personal collection, while Margaret’s keen interest on how we live with art and incorporate it into our everyday life were themes reflected in ukiyo-e as well.” Reiterating the timeless quality of the included images, Sullivan says, “While both artists have been influenced by Japanese printmaking, it’s plain to see Cressida has also been influenced by Margaret, hence this notion of cutting through time and the way that influences flow.”

Cutting Through Time—Cressida Campbell, Margaret Preston, and the Japanese Print
Geelong Gallery
18 May—28 July

This article was originally published in the May/June 2024 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Briony Downes