Born Margaret McPherson in Port Adelaide in 1875, Margaret moved to Melbourne in 1893 where she studied at the National Gallery of Victoria School of Arts under the painter Fredrick McCubbin and Director, Bernard Hall.
In 1904 she travelled to Europe where she actively sought out the work of Europe’s influential modern painters. It was during this time following exposure to works by artists such as Matisse, van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and Whistler, and the influences of oriental aesthetics, that Margaret developed a ‘decorative’ style that she would carry through her career.
Margaret met her future husband Bill Preston on her way home from America and they were married in 1919. A friend noted “Bill seemed to regard it as a national duty to keep his beloved Margaret happy and artistically productive”. Bill’s success in business gave Margaret the financial security to pursue her work and travel extensively.
Margaret became established as the most prominent Australian woman artist of the 1920s and 1930s – strongly advocating a national style that was distinctive and reflective of Australian culture with Chinese and Japanese influences, along with the motifs of Australian Aboriginal art.
She created over 400 known prints with the great majority featuring Australian native flora such as the banksia, waratah, gum blossom and wheelflower.