Tin Sheds Gallery

Current exhibitions

Callan Park

Exhibition Details

What: Raymond McGrath: Modern Master
Where: Tin Sheds Gallery, Wilkinson Building, The University of Sydney, Camperdown
When: 28 August to 24 October 2014)
Hours: Tues-Fri 11am-5pm
Cost: Free

About the Exhibition

Tin Sheds Gallery is proud to announce it is showcasing a generous collection of works by the late Irish-Australian architect, Raymond McGrath. This exhibition is the first of its kind in Australia. The collection of works in Modern Master are on loan from the Irish Architectural Archive (IAA), where the works were first exhibited in a major retrospective held in 2013. In addition to IAA's collection, Tin Sheds Gallery will be loaning McGrath works from Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney; a complimentary expansion to the breadth of work on display. The exhibition highlights McGrath’s illustrious career, giving a visual narrative to several of his seminal architectural works. Modern Master is not only a great opportunity to pay homage to McGrath as an architect in his own right, but to also celebrate an architect whose first education in architecture started here, at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney. McGrath graduated in 1926 with first-class honours, and the University Medal for the most distinguished student.

McGrath is considered one of the most important pioneering modern architects in the English-speaking world, and came to prominence with his interiors for the BBC, his seminal book on modern architecture, 'Twentieth Century Houses' (1934), and his book 'Glass in Architecture and Decoration' (1937), which is still considered by scholars to be one of the most distinguished books on the subject.

Born in Australia, 1903, McGrath was raised in the suburb of Parramatta, NSW. The young McGrath showed a strong interest in Art and Literature; a writer of poetry and prose, a prize-winning student, a maker of etchings, woodcuts, bookplates and illustrated manuscripts. An early example of his linocuts - a technique he explored through his encounters with Mervyn Napier Waller and Lionel Lindsay (brother of Australian artist and cartoonist Norman Lindsay) - depicts the Great Tower at the University of Sydney (see image below), and was completed in 1923 while he was still a student at the University. Also featured in the exhibition is the original proposal for McGrath’s only Australian architectural commission, the Callan Park War Memorial, dated 1925. The memorial is still extant, located close to the entrance gates at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

McGrath’s interest in drawing architecture – so evident in his early Sydney etchings – persisted throughout his life as did his love of travel. Upon receiving a generous travelling scholarship in his early 20s, McGrath left for Europe, and enrolled as the first research student in architecture at the University of Cambridge. His planned thesis on architecture for theatre and public entertainment was overtaken by his rapid success as a practicing architect, becoming a leading architect in England in the 30s. He became preeminent in the use of elements which would be so typical of buildings for moderne leisure –glass, light and colour.

Between 1930-1935, McGrath was appointed Decorative Consultant to the British Broadcasting Commission (BBC). This appointment involved the architecture and the interior fittings; including the designing of fabrics, furniture, electrical fittings, ceramics and floor coverings. The second World War had a significant influence on him, forcing McGrath to move to Ireland to support his family. In 1940 he became Principal Architect at the Irish Office of Public Works, and remained there till 1968.

During the 1950s, the Department of Foreign Affairs expanded Ireland’s presence abroad through a programme of embassy acquisition and upgrade. McGrath provided the architectural input, selecting new embassies and refurbishing existing ones. His designs for glassware and carpets during this period, would later became a hallmark of his work. One of his most enduring legacies in Ireland was his encouragement of native design and craftsmanship. In 1970 he was appointed Professor of Architecture at the Royal Hibernian Academy; a position held until his death in 1977.