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Australian Art to 1975


Ian Fairweather | Scotland/Australia 1891-1974 | Kite flying 1958 | Synthetic polymer paint and gouache on cardboard laid down on composition board | 129.4 x 194cm | Purchased 1985 with the assistance of funds raised through a special Queensland Art Gallery Foundation appeal and with a contribution from the Queensland Art Gallery Society | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Ian Fairweather, 1958. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2004.


Sidney Nolan | Australia/England 1917-92 | Mrs Fraser 1947 | Ripolin enamel on hardboard | 66.2 x 107cm | Purchased 1995 with a special allocation from the Queensland Government. Celebrating the Queensland Art Gallery's | Centenary 1895-1995 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Courtesy of the Artist's Estate / www.bridgeman.co.uk

Australian Art to 1970

Since the Queensland Art Gallery opened in 1895, a major focus has been to collect art works by Australian artists. The first Australian works to enter the Collection were gifts from Brisbane artists who campaigned for the Gallery’s foundation. In the decades following, traditional landscapes, portraits and watercolours were acquired. After World War Two, the Gallery’s Australian holdings increased rapidly as successive directors built a series of profile collections.

The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries, in the Queensland Art Gallery display Australian art from European occupation to the 1970s. The galleries are hung chronologically; however, they also reveal the multiple and sometimes contradictory stories that characterise the development of Australian art. Significantly, the presence of Indigenous people in this land is recognised, both in works of art by Indigenous artists, and in the work of non-Indigenous artists with whom they have exchanged visual traditions.

Australian art from the colonial period to the beginning of the twentieth century highlights the influence of European traditions and the emergence of a distinctly Australian vernacular. Eugene von Guérard’s A view from Mt Franklin towards Mount Kooroocheang and the Pyrenees c.1864, acquired in 2008, suggests the energy with which many European-trained artists set about portraying the landscape.

From the mid 1880s, a group of artists including Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Charles Conder set up camps on the outskirts of Melbourne, to paint and discuss art. Their particular interpretation of European impressionist painting became known as the ‘Heidelberg School’ often also known as Australian Impressionism and they defined a new direction for Australian painting, drawing on the familiar domestic landscape, urban life and even a nationalistic sentiment. Arthur Streeton’s Sketch for ‘Still glides the stream and shall forever glide’ 1895 sits at the heart of this significant group of works.

The Australian collection also boasts major works by Edwardian expatriate artists such as John Russell, Rupert Bunny and E Phillips Fox. Russell’s impressionist seascape La Pointe de Morestil par mer Calme 1901, Bunny’s grand Bathers 1906 and Ethel Carrick Fox’s On the beach c.1909, her husband, E. Phillips Fox’s Bathing hour (L’heure de bain) c.1909 all capture some of the bravura techniques and cosmopolitan aspects of Australian painting from this period.

Australian society modernised rapidly in the first half of the twentieth century. Art made during this period varied from the more traditional conceptions of landscape and portraiture to several different and contending forms of modernist art. The burgeoning impact of international modernism on Australian art is well documented in the Gallery's Australian collection. Highlights include Roland Wakelin’s The bridge under construction 1928, William Dobell’s The Cypriot 1940 and Russell Drysdale’s Man feeding his dogs 1941. The recent acquisitions of Peter Purves Smith rhythmic modernist portrait Lucile 1937 along with Nora Heysen's bold self portrait 1938, have enriched this selection.

Strong holdings of postwar art include works by prominent artists who have a particular connection to Queensland, such as Sidney Nolan’s Mrs Fraser 1947, inspired by the story of Mrs Fraser’s shipwreck on Fraser Island, off the south-east coast of Queensland in 1836.

Perhaps the most renowned artist with a Queensland connection is the eminent Australian artist Ian Fairweather. The Gallery has the most extensive display of Fairweather’s art in Australia, showcasing works ranging from his early figurative paintings to his renowned abstract paintings, such as Café tables 1957, Kite flying 1958 and Epiphany 1962.Collector and benefactor Win Schubert has recently donated a significant group of works by Fairweather through the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts. Her gifts of important works such as Trotting Race c.1956 and Chi-tien drunk, carried home 1964 have transformed the Gallery’s holdings of the artist’s work.

To recognise and honour this outstanding commitment to the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, the Australian galleries in the Queensland Art Gallery are now named The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries.

The Australian collection continues to track developments in the modern movement in the 1950s and 1960s. This includes abstraction and works assembled from found objects. Outstanding examples include John Olsen’s magnificent experimental landscape painting Journey into the you beaut country no. 2 1961, and Robert Klippel’s pivotal abstract sculpture, no. 247, metal construction 1965–68 1969.

The late 1960s marked a dramatic shift in focus, with abstraction prevailing. The seminal 1968 exhibition ‘The Field’, at the National Gallery of Victoria, was a watershed, with artists moving beyond notions of a local vernacular to establish a dialogue with international trends, specifically those emerging from New York. The paintings and sculptures of ‘Field’ artists, such as Ian Burn, Robert Hunter and Ron Robertson-Swann, many of whom are represented in the Collection, were a radical departure from the art of previous decades. The 2010 gift of  Janet Dawson’s Coffee table c.1964 is an important addition to the works from this period, oscillating as it does between design and art.

The Gallery’s collection priorities are continually re-evaluated, and the collection of Australian art is constantly evolving, shaping new narratives about our art and cultural history. 

The images on this web page are indicative of works that are part of the Collection. Visitors are advised to contact the Gallery in advance of a visit to find out if a particular work is on display. For exhibition information on Collection works on display, please visit Current Collection Displays

Selected Collection Highlights

Unknown Tasmanian Cabinet Maker Sofa c.1830-40

Thomas Woolner Portrait medallion of William Charles Wentworth c.1854

Eugene von Guérard A view from Mt Franklin towards Mount Kooroocheang and the Pyrenees c.1864

Arthur Streeton Sketch for ‘Still glides the stream and shall forever glide’ 1895

Girolamo Nerli The sitting 1889

John Russell La Pointe de Morestil par mer Calme (Calm Sea at Morestil Point) 1901

George W Lambert Self Portrait with Ambrose Patterson, Amy Lambert and Hugh Ramsay c.1901–03 

AME Bale Leisure moments 1902

Rupert Bunny Bathers 1906

E. Phillips Fox Bathing hour (L'Heure de Bain) c.1909

Ethel Carrick Fox On the beach c.1909

Lloyd Rees Exterior, St Brigid's Church, Red Hill 1916

Roland Wakelin The bridge under construction 1928

Margaret Preston Australian rock lily c.1933

Olive Cotton Plum blossom 1937 (inscr. 1935)

William Dobell The Cypriot 1940

Russell Drysdale Man feeding his dogs 1941

Grace Cossington Smith Church interior c.1941–42 (inscr. 1937)

Dorrit Black In the foothills 1942

Anne Dangar Tea service c.1945-51

Sidney Nolan Mrs Fraser 1947

Charles Blackman City lights 1952

Schulim Krimper Sideboard 1952

Donald Friend  c.1957-61

Ian Fairweather Kite flying 1958

John Olsen Journey into the you beaut country no. 2 1961

Janet Dawson Coffee Table c.1964

Robert Klippel Opus 247, metal construction 1965-68 1969