Cressida Campbell

Pumpkin and Eggplant, 1991
woodblock print, 1 from an edition of 1
27 x 27.5 cm (image); 54.8 x 54.5 cm (frame)
signed and dated ‘Cressida Campbell ‘91’ (lower right) and titled ‘PUMPKIN AND EGGPLANT’ (lower centre)

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Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991

Cressida Campbell: woodblock prints and woodblocks 1990-1991, Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney, 9 April – 4 May 1991, cat. 19 

John McDonald, The Woodblock Painting of Cressida
, Public Pictures, Sydney, 2008, illus. p. 27 (the woodblock), cat. details p. 343 

Pumpkin and Eggplant, is a relatively early work in Campbell’s transition from editioned to unique woodblock prints, which occurred in 1987.

Campbell has created small still life works throughout her career of fruit, vegetable and flowers, part of her broader interests in nature and domesticity. While Campbell’s work became increasingly meticulous and with more granular detail as the 1990s went on, this work still carries the remnants of her sosaku hanga education, with larger blocks of colour, painterly, uneven edges and broad blocks of colour in the shadows.

As John McDonald wrote of Campbell’s work in his 2008 monograph, The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell: “In bringing us back to simple things, Campbell is exploring a decorative art for our times, an art that avoids the overheated demand for meanings and messages as surely as the most austere piece of minimalist sculpture. The vital difference is that her prints almost radiate with the pleasure of their own making. It is a quality that alerts the viewer to the complementary pleasures of looking, those necessary, timeless pleasures that our television sets have been helping us to forget.” (John McDonald, The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell, 2008, Public Pictures, Sydney, p. 19.)

  • Pumpkin and Eggplant

Image courtesy of the artist and Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane

View artist profile

Cressida Campbell is a Sydney-based artist who works in watercolour, painted woodblocks and woodblock prints. Her work, which follows in the traditions of Margaret Preston, Giorgio Morandi, Thea Proctor and her friend the late Margaret Preston, is celebrated for its beautiful and poetic depictions of everyday domestic scenes, landscapes and still lifes.

Born in 1960, Campbell studied at East Sydney Technical College from 1978-1979, followed by a year of study at the prestigious Yoshida Hanga Academy, Tokyo, Japan. The Academy was founded by Toshi Yoshida (1911-1995), a renowned woodblock printmaker of the shin hanga (or ‘new prints’) tradition who was the son of Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) one of the great Japanese printmakers of the early twentieth century. Toshi Yoshida was also a pioneer of the sōsaku-hanga or ‘creative prints’ movement, in which the roles of designer, carver and printmaker were all assumed by the one artist instead of being performed by separate craftspeople. 

Drawing upon sōsaku-hanga and broader Japanese woodblock printmaking traditions, Campbell creates prints and paintings that refer to and invert the traditions of the woodblock print. Often taking up to two months to complete just one work, her technique is often painstaking. First, she draws a scene from life onto a wooden block. (Campbell has said “If the drawing is wrong, then everything goes wrong.”) Next, she carves out the details of the image; she then paints segments of the block with layers of watercolour paint; and, lastly, she sprays the final object with water, often to take just a single print. The painted blocks themselves will often then become artworks in their own right, a celebration of the woodblock printing process which is so often ignored or concealed behind the beauty of the final image.

Campbell has exhibited extensively over the past four decades and is widely represented in Australian and overseas public and private collections, including the British Museum, London, and the National Museum, Krakow, Poland. In 2009 a major survey exhibition of her work, Timeless: The art of Cressida Campbell was held at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, and subsequently toured to the Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Brisbane. A major monograph, The Woodblock Painting of Cressida Campbell, was published in 2009 by Public Pictures, Bronte, edited by Peter Crayford and with a forward and introduction by Edmund Capon and John McDonald. Campbell has won the Pring Prize and the Trustees’ Watercolour Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, and has received an Australia Council for the Arts Verdaccio Studio Residency in Italy.