The Unsolved Case of the Stolen Art Collection

With the recent Remembrance Day commemorations still echoing in my mind and the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day Centenary to be celebrated next year on the 25th of April, my thoughts turned to one of my favourite paintings. Titled The sock knitter, it is the year of its creation, 1915, which points to its significance. The lady in the painting, like many women of her generation, was knitting socks to send over to her loved ones serving on the battlefields of World War 1. The painting acts as a poignant reminder of the love, courage and dedication shown by family members on the home-front, unsure if their loved ones would return. Many did not.
Painted by a 23 year old Grace Cossington Smith, this work was her first painting to be exhibited and is considered the first fully Post-Impressionist work painted in Australia.

Grace Cossington Smith (Australia 1892 – 20 Dec 1984)
Title: The sock knitter (1915)
Place of origin: Turramurra → Sydney → New South Wales → Australia
Media category: Painting
Materials used: oil on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

The sock knitter is on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales – which was also home to Frans van Mieris’s A Cavalier (self portrait) and, like van Mieris, Grace Cossington Smith’s work was also the victim of an art theft – one of the most baffling cases in Australia, in fact. Baffling in that the theft occurred on April 4, 1977 and remains unsolved to this day and especially baffling because not just one work was stolen but an entire commercial exhibition comprised of 27 small paintings and works on paper! The whole lot was stolen from the Macquarie Galleries in King Street, Sydney. They have never been recovered.

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