The Lewers bequest is among the most significant contributions to the Australian art world of the last century. Bequeathing their home and sufficient funds for a serious art gallery to flourish as the Penrith Regional Gallery, the legacy of the Lewers is also tied to fearless experimentation: “Ideas hurtled, argument flared, voices shouted, sparks flew … the (Lewers) house provides one of the focus points of our still tentative civilisation,” wrote Patrick White of the home of Gerald and Margo Lewers.
The exhibition A House Full of Paintings is a triumphant celebration of the work of Margo Lewers (1908-1978) where colour, form, collage and experimentation are writ large in the pure diversity of her field of Postwar Abstract Expressionism.
Indeed, she worked in painting, textiles, sculpture and mosaic. Recognised as leader in her field, Lewers’ experimentation opened new avenues in sculpture with plexiglass heralding a new era in materially diverse works.
“Margo Lewers helped define and enrich the Australian Modernist tradition with her unrestrained creativity and force, the impacts of which still reverberate today. It’s been an absolute delight to work with the original Bequest and pay homage to the art and life of a phenomenal artist,” says Nina Stromqvist, curatorial programs manager, Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest.
Set amidst the beauty of her original homestead and heritage garden, the exhibition – which includes paintings, collages, mosaics, fabric hangings, and plexiglass sculptures – will also present hand-made cards and documentation of her mosaics.
“As the custodians of the largest collection of Lewers’ work – and indeed to her home and gardens – we are thrilled by the opportunity to highlight the artistic experimentation and triumphs that characterised Margo’s life. A House Full of Paintings draws into focus the sheer ambition and breadth of Lewers’ practice, and we hope it will provide our audience with an opportunity to reflect on her anachronistic life, lived here in the suburbs of Emu Plains,” says Toby Chapman, director, visual arts, Penrith Performing & Visual Arts.
The title of the show is taken from her comment during the sixties after the death in 1962 of her husband, the sculptor Gerald Lewers. With both daughters perusing careers in Sydney Lewers found herself alone in the house preparing for her exhibition in the recently converted Ancher House Gallery. She stated: “It’s a house without people, its only inhabitants are paintings.”
Born in 1908, Margo established her first pottery and textile studio in her teens before meeting Gerald Lewers at Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo’s art classes in the late 1920s. They were married in October 1932 and travelled to London in 1934 to enrol at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where Margo studied under John Farleigh on textile design, painting and drawing.
Returning to Australia in 1935 Margo established the Notanda Gallery, an interior decorating shop in Rowe Street, Sydney and continued to design ceramics and hand-printed fabrics. An active member of the Sydney branch of the Contemporary Art Society of Australia, Margo worked and exhibited throughout her career.
Penrith Regional Gallery