A contemporary of Grace Crowley and Ralph Balson, Dorrit Black was both a painter and printmaker, particularly of linocuts. An active member of both the Sydney and Adelaide arts communities, Black, who founded Group 9, was also involved in Sydney's Modern Art Centre and the Contemporary Art Society in Adelaide.
painter, printmaker, art teacher and gallery director, was born in Burnside, Adelaide, on 23 December 1891. She was a student, then instructor, at the Sydney Art School in 1915-23, studied linocut with Claude Flight at Iain MacNab’s Grosvenor School of Modern Art, London, from September to December 1927, then painting at André Lhôte’s academy in Paris between 1927 and 1929, in the latter year taking two lessons (accompanied by Grace Crowley ) with Albert Gleizes. She returned to Sydney late in 1929. During the 1920s she converted from Anglicanism to Christian Science.
Principally a painter and linocut artist, Dorrit Black inaugurated and ran the Modern Art Centre in Margaret Street, Sydney, in 1923-33, holding solo exhibitions by Grace Crowley, Ralph Balson , Enid Cambridge , Roland Wakelin and Frank Weitzel there, as well as an exhibition of her own work and several group exhibitions. She produced linocuts from about 1927 to about 1951, but most intensively during the late 1920s and early 1930s, giving lessons in the medium at the Modern Art Centre and helping Claude Flight promote linocuts in England.
Returning to Adelaide in 1935, Black became vice-chairman of the Contemporary Art Society in 1942. In 1944 she formed Group 9; the initial members included Marjorie Gwynne and Horace Trenerry; later, artists such as Francis Roy Thomson and Jeffrey Smart joined. Periodically, she wrote letters to newspaper editors defending modern art or addressing political matters from a socialist perspective. She worked from a modest home-studio designed to her specifications on land acquired in 1939 at Romalo Avenue, Magill, in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs, not far from her birthplace. She died on 13 September 1951 as the result of a car crash.
IMAGES: Linocuts include W oman mowing lawn in Heritage and The Leg Action Conductor in Manuscripts 12 (20 February 1935), 51 (separate linocut on Japanese paper 15.2 × 9.3 cm in Bendigo Art Gallery. Black also did linocut views e.g. Nocturne, Wynyard Square , AGNSW acq. 1976, and plants Blackboys (c.1939 45) AGNSW, gift 1968 (AGNSW holds the six lino blocks used for this print).
PORTRAIT: Dorrit Black , oil on card by Jacqueline Hick (coll. Artist, ill Heritage ); Doris Hope Weston (evidently a British artist), Claude Flight’s Painting Lesson , oil on canvas with Parkin Gallery provenance and said to include artists Daphne Mayo [sic] and Dorrit Black, was auctioned at Christie’s Sydney 14-15 August 1994, lot 194A (ill).