Max & Olive: The Photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain

10 September – 13 November 2016 | In Gallery1

A National Gallery of Australia Travelling exhibition

A new travelling exhibition from the National Gallery of Australia. Max and Olive: the photographic life of Olive Cotton and Max Dupain will for the first time display together a substantial group of works by famed Australian photographers, Max Dupain and Olive Cotton. This exhibition will tour nationally for the next year.
The NGA has the largest collection of rare vintage prints by Dupain and Cotton, and the exhibition will look at their work as the shared their lives, studio and professional practice. Max and Olive includes 65 photographs from this collection and features some of Australian photography’s best-known images, including Dupain’s Sunbaker (1937) and Cotton’s Teacup ballet (1935).
As exhibition curator Shaune Lakin notes: ‘Looking at the work of these two great Australian photographers together is enlightening; they were often shooting the same subjects, or pursuing subjects and pictorial effects in similar ways. Rarely do we get to see two great Australian artists working side-by-side in this way. And while Max Dupain’s reputation might now stand well above most other Australian photographers, this exhibition shows that Olive Cotton had a significant role to play in his development as a photographer, and was in many ways his equal.’
Dupain and Cotton were at the centre of Australian photography in the mid-twentieth century, and were influential figures in Australian culture at the time. Friends from childhood, Dupain and Cotton produced now iconic photographs during an exciting period of experimentation and growth in Australian photography. Their professional relationship spilled over into their personal lives, and the two were married for a short while from 1939.
Keenly aware of international developments in photography, Cotton and Dupain experimented with the forms and strategies of modernist photography, and drew upon the sophisticated lighting and compositions of contemporary advertising and Hollywood glamour photography. They brought to these influences their own, close association with the rich context of Australian life and culture during the 1930s and ‘40s. Their achievement was the development of a truly modern Australian photography that reflected their own, very particular relationships to the world and to each other.


image: Max DUPAIN, Sunbaker, 1937, gelatin silver photograph, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of the Philip Morris Arts Grant 1982.


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