painter, was born on 28 May 1890 at Cobbadah (NSW), a daughter of Henry Crowley, a wealthy grazier of Glen Riddle, Barraba. She was educated at home by a governess and attended a Sydney boarding school. In 1907, while still at school, her uncle, the Rev. Archibald Crowley, encouraged her to join him in weekly classes at Julian Ashton 's Sydney Art School. These lessons lasted only a short time; Grace was soon back at Barraba, expected to play a domestic role as dutiful daughter.
Her parents did not want her to pursue a career as a painter; however, Grace managed to return to Sydney in 1915 and began to study seriously under Ashton, Mildred Lovett and Elioth Gruner , eventually becoming Ashton’s assistant in 1918 (replacing Gruner). She taught there until 1923, the year she entered – but did not win – the NSW Society of Artists’ Travelling Scholarship (it was won by Roi de Maistre ). In 1926 she went to Europe anyway, without a scholarship, travelling with Anne Dangar , a fellow teacher at Ashton’s. Grace was supported -grudgingly – by her family: her parents gave her the fare and her brother sent her an annual allowance.
In Paris (1926-29) she studied at Colarossi’s briefly, then with Louis Roger, André Lhôte, Amedée Ozenfant and Albert Gleizes. At first Lhôte was dismissive of Grace’s work; 'The two things he hated most’, Grace remembered, 'were “Les Beaux Arts”, and “les impressionists”’. Under Lhôte’s influence – in Paris and especially at his summer school at Mirmande which Dangar and Dorrit Black also attended – Grace discarded her earlier style and her landscapes and figure paintings began to take on a characteristic geometric form. In 1928 her Girl with Goats (NGV) was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants, being hung next a painting by Lhôte.
After returning to Australia early in 1930, Grace spent some time at Barraba. By 1932 she had moved back to Sydney, where she helped Dorrit Black at her Modern Art Centre. That year she started her own school with ex-student Rah Fizelle – whose work closely followed Crowley’s – in premises at 215a George Street; during its five-year existence the school became a focus for modern art in Sydney.
Grace Crowley was part of an informal but important network of Sydney modernist artists. Crowley, Black, Eleonore Lange , Frank and Margel Hinder and Ralph Balson all produced 'difficult’ work which was not promoted in that organ of decorative 'easy’ modernism, the Home , so was not as influential in forming Sydney’s taste. The circle held a group exhibition ('Exhibition I’) at David Jones Gallery in 1939, opened by Justice Evatt (husband of Mary Alice ), but no more followed due partly to the outbreak of war and partly to the formation of the Sydney branch of the Contemporary Art Society.
Grace Crowley never married. She remained close friends with Ralph Balson, travelling to the USA with him in 1960-61. She died on 21 April 1979.