Margaret Preston Comes To Berowra

Cover of Rickards brochure advertising Berowra

In 1932, William and Margaret Preston, both in their fifties, purchased their first property, which happened to be a 10-acre allotment in Berowra. Margaret Preston was leaving the artistic milieu she had become so involved in since her return from Europe in 1925. So, why such a radical change in environment? We believe, through oral account sources, the artist was recovering from breast cancer surgery she endured in 1929. And throughout this period, Berowra was being promoted as the ideal place to stay for respite and healing, due to its high altitude. With its quiet bushland surroundings, natural rock pools, vistas over the sunset and high mountain air, Berowra would certainly provide the Prestons with a much needed period of solace. As researchers, we have often pondered the question of how did the Prestons come to know and purchase the property in Berowra.

The realtor Arthur Rickard had been promoting the health benefits of Berowra during the previous decade in the Sydney Morning Herald. Perhaps, the advertisement was convincing enough to allow the Prestons to envisage a bush retreat as beneficial. For Margaret Preston the possibilities may have been just what she needed during this difficult period in her life, as it would mean a time for quiet and contemplative recovery, whilst also allowing her an intense period to study native plants in their natural environment. We now know, this period had a profound effect on Margaret Preston’s practice as an artist in producing some of her finest work, largely due to her encounters with Berowra.

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