Fortian Archives

Fortian Archives

With so many artworks around the school let’s look at one from one of the most famous Australia artists who also was also a Fortian (1895) – Margaret Preston.

“Preston was educated at Fort Street Girls School for two years where she recalled her first experience of visiting the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She remembers quite well her excitement on going through the turnstile to be let at large in a big, quiet, nice smelling place with a lot of pictures hanging on the walls and here and there students sitting on high stools copying at easels. Her first impression was not of the beauty of wonder of the pictures, but how nice it must be to sit on a high stool with people giving you ‘looks’ as they went by … this visit led her to decide to be an artist. Preston’s formal art training was distinguished by her instruction under major Australian artists such as Frederick McCubbin. Preston’s emergence as one of the most powerful exponents of Australian Modernism in the 1920s is inextricably linked to her extensive travels and studies in Europe resulting in artistic revelations would colour Preston’s practice, her critical thinking and theorising for the remainder of her life.”

Katrina Cashman – Curator of the Mosman Art Gallery.


Preston won the silver medal for art at the Paris International Exhibition1937 and her art is represented in all National Galleries in Australia, Yale University Art Gallery and Botany School, Sydney University. At Fort Street we are fortunate to have one of her paintings, “The Dragon Fly” (1938), which she donated to the school in 1941. This artwork can be found in the Principal’s office. Otherwise there is an exhibition, “Making Modernism”, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until the 2nd October that includes many works by Preston.

  • Iain Wallace
  • Fort Street Archivist