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  • Writer's pictureART HISTORY

Research Seminar: Sheridan Palmer, The Abbey Art Centre: A Post WW2 Artist Colony, 2 March 2023

Date Mar 02 2023. Time 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm More Info Join via Zoom

Peter Graham and Douglas Green, Abbey Art Centre (c. 1947-49). Unknown photographer, private collection, courtesy the artists’ estates


Models for writing art history range between globalised world views, national, regional or local histories, the enduring monograph and topics from art movements to issue-based accounts. But how do we accommodate the artist colony, which attracts artists from elsewhere, of differing nationalities, brought together in a single geo-spatial frame.


Stemming from a current ARC Discovery project examining one artist colony, the Abbey Art Centre, on the rural outskirts of post WW2 London, falls into a different category, one that reflected the effects of exiled European artists and transient Australian artists. At a time when major geo-political, economic and cultural postwar reconstruction was underway, the Abbey Art Centre, formed along lines of socialist and utopian patronage, offered a unique spatial and creative modality that operated within a potent framework of ethnographic modernism. This paper considers the ‘all-but-forgotten’ Abbey Art Centre as a collage of postwar cultural predicaments and offers an important lens for reassessing transnational artistic experimentation and modernist production.


Dr Sheridan Palmer is an art historian, curator and a senior research associate at the University of Melbourne, and a Fellow of the Centre of Visual Art, VCA. She is currently working on the ARC project ‘The Abbey Art Centre: Reassessing postwar Australian modernism’. Her major publications include: Hegels Owl: The Life of Bernard Smith, Power Publications, Sydney, 2016; Editor, 3rd edition of Bernard Smith’s European Vision and the South Pacific, Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2022; Centre of the Periphery: Three European Art Historians in Melbourne, ASP, 2008; Antipodean Perspective: Selected Writings of Bernard Smith, co-edited with Rex Butler, Monash University Publishing, 2018.


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