Grace Cossington Smith is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most significant modernist artists. Her works of the late 1920s and early 1930s reveal a daring, adventurous spirit. For Cossington Smith, as for many artists at the time, the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was the source of much excitement and inspiration. She tackled it with extraordinary vigour in drawings and in some of the best paintings ever made of the subject, including The Bridge in building.

Cossington Smith’s favourite position to view the bridge was at Milson’s Point on the North Shore, the location of this painting. She has adopted a very low viewpoint and the main focus is the enormous pylon and arc rearing up into the sky, as well as the radiating colour and light.

The modernist icon of the Harbour Bridge was an ideal subject for Cossington Smith. The work reveals the artist’s feeling for architecture and the geometry of the bridge, with its complex structural components. The two giant arms reaching across the water towards each other convey a sense of the awe that many felt at the tremendous presence of this structure coming into being, evoking a new era of hope and possibility.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010

From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008


  • Title: The Bridge in building
  • Creator: Grace COSSINGTON SMITH
  • Creator Lifespan: 1892 - 1984
  • Creator Death Place: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Creator Birth Place: Neutral Bay, New South Wales, Australia
  • Date Created: 1929-30
  • Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Physical Dimensions: w530 x h750 cm
  • Type: Painting,oil on pulpboard
  • Rights: Gift of Ellen Waugh 2005
  • External Link: National Gallery of Australia

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