click to enlarge
click to enlarge Aerial View
(Glasshouse Mountains no.7)

Oil on Linen
91.5 x 121.5cm
Collection: National Museum for Women in Arts, Washington

Limited edition Giclee archival prints of this painting are available for purchase. Paper size: 42.0 x 60.0 cm

Anne Marie Graham and the Glasshouse Mountains

The eroded, volcanic plugs and the Glasshouse Mountains just north of Brisbane, have been a natural ‘cynosure of neigh’bring eyes’ since they were first recorded of Captain James Cook on his voyage of exploration along the eastern Australian coast in 1770. These peaks have featured in visual images of itinerant artists and visitors to Queensland since that time and more particularly since Noosa, Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast have become important tourist destinations since the 1960s. The well-known artist, Lawrence Daws, has made these peaks a focus in his works when he settled nearby in 1972.

By the time, however, Graham had already ‘discovered’ this striking subject. Graham’s first exhibition in Brisbane and the Johnstone Gallery in 1966 already included Queensland subjects. But could there be a bigger contrast between Daws’ moody, twilight scenes and the intense colours, joy in patterning and uncomplicated delight in Graham’s renditions? In the years 1972 to 1979 fellow Melbourne Artist June Stephenson, with whom Graham shared artistic principles as well as a long-time friendship, resided at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast. When Graham paid visit during the winter the friends would go on sketching expeditions to the Glasshouse Mountains on South Queensland’s alternate holiday coast.

Since soldiers settler allotments were opened up at Beerburrum in the early 1920’s the area around the Glasshouse Mountains is widely known for growing pineapples so it is difficult to produce a close up view of one of the Glasshouse Mountains and not include a pineapple field. Graham has produced most impressive, and intensely decorative, depictions of the pineapple plantations. The Mountains have been significant subject’s form 1975 when she included Pineapple Farm, Queensland as the 6th month in her series Twelve Month Australia (Collection of the Queensland Art Gallery).

Graham has also produced two major triptychs Dusk at Glasshouse Mountains 1985-86 (Collection: Mirage Sheraton, Port Douglas) and Pineapple Farm 1991. In the latter painting the prickly tops of the pineapples dominate the left hand side of the composition while the serried ranks stretch to the distant mountains. In other works such as Mixed Farm 2007, the serried ranks that lead the eye to the base of the mountains have transformed into citrus trees and banana palms.

The Glasshouse Mountains were the focus of her 2007 exhibition in Melbourne Glasshouse Mountains and Beyond although her gaze has also shifted further north to include the tropics with paintings of Cairns and Kuranda. The most popular vantage point for a view of the Glasshouse Mountains is from Mary Caincross Scenic Reserve, a precious fragment of the original rainforest, which was donated to the public in 1941. One of the largest of the works in that exhibition was Aerial View which depicts the Glasshouse Mountains under clouds and shows a similar panorama through the muted colour scheme and cool tonalities suggest a nigh-time view. This painting is now part of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, USA.

In the presence of such work, a further point becomes particularly evident. The exploration of colour has been a minor element in the tradition of Australian visual artists, but Anne Graham is an assured exponent. The subject may remain the same – the stark, uncompromising outlines of Nature’s hand and the contrast of the regular patterning of Man’s domesticated landscape – but here paintings make the transition from reality to sites of the imagination.

Glenn R Cooke
Research Curator, Queensland Heritage