ANNE REES | Mary Cecil Allen: Modernism and Modernity in Melbourne 1935-1960

Mary Cecil Allen (1893-1962) was an Australian artist and art educator who moved to New York in 1927, where she became a lecturer and exhibited in leading galleries and museums. Although a resident of the United States until her death, Allen returned to Melbourne in 1935-36, 1950 and 1959 – 1960, becoming an advocate of modern art and a symbol of modernity. On each occasion, she attracted large audiences to her lectures on modernism and controversially exhibited her latest work, thereby exerting a considerable influence on attitudes towards modern art in Melbourne. As a glamorous and confident ‘modern woman’, she came to represent the seductive vitality of American modernity and acted as a vehicle of Americanisation. This article examines these three visits, tracing Allen’s activities and reception, and situating them within a wider cultural context. Download article pdf (683kb)