Olive Edith Cotton (1911-2003) is regarded as one of the pioneers of Australian modernist– photography. However, her work is distinct from the boldness and dramatic compositions of other modernists, because it is characterised by a gentleness and tranquility.
Cotton’s career spanned more than six decades, but was punctuated by a forty-year absence from the art scene. Despite this, she never stopped taking photos.
The common threads of Cotton’s work are her use of light and form, keen observation skills and equal treatment of subject matter. Her 1935 photograph, Tea cup ballet, is a case in point. This is arguably her most famous work.
The natural world provided a lifelong inspiration for Cotton. Carefully and patiently, she photographed Australia ‘s landscapes, trees, flowers and clouds. Her dual interests in art and science are revealed in the homage that her images pay to the beauty and structure of nature.
Cotton’s work was included in various exhibitions during the 1930s but her first solo exhibition was not until 1985.