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The Moderns: Highlights from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection

Russell Drysdale

Russell Drysdale | Man feeding his dogs 1941 | Oil on canvas | Gift of C.F. Viner-Hall 1961 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Peter Purves Smith

Peter Purves Smith | Lucile 1937 | Oil on board | Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

‘The Moderns: Highlights from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection’ provides a rare opportunity for regional Queensland audiences to view some of the Gallery’s finest works, while we present ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado' in our Australian art collection galleries at the Queensland Art Gallery.

‘The Moderns’ features the Gallery’s treasured modern masterpieces of Australian art, and tells the story of artists’ responses to the experience of modernisation in the first half of the twentieth century. Several contending forms of Modernism developed in Australia. Sydney artists in the 1920s and 1930s were closer to the urbane Modernism of European design and decor, as seen in publications of the time, such as, Art in Australia and The Home. European modernist culture influenced Sydney artists’ eclectic art at first through reproductions in books and magazines, and later through more frequent travel abroad. By contrast, in the 1940s and 1950s, Melbourne artists — especially those supported by patrons John and Sunday Reed — became famous for a raw expressionist idiom that drew its passion from the turbulence of the war years and, later, from the struggle to develop an authentically Australian cultural vision. During this time, the importance of painting was augmented by new interests in printmaking and innovations in sculpture; however, more traditional artistic practice continued to flourish, especially in landscape and portraiture.

Modernism — however manifested — was only one story in Australian art during this period. ‘The Moderns’ explores the climate of contention brought on by modernisation, and shows the importance that both traditional and innovative artistic expression had in developing the Australian culture of the time.


Download the touring exhibition room brochure.

Download the touring exhibition education resources for  primary and secondary students. The resources include in-gallery questions, classroom activities and accompanying curriculum checklist.


View the ‘The Moderns: Highlights from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection' Ministerial Release

View the Gallery's full list of current, recent and previous media releases and media kits. 

To register for full access to the Gallery's media image library providing copyright-cleared images ready for media use, visit http://www.media.qag.qld.gov.au.

The Queensland Art Gallery's media unit assists media with inquiries including:

  • Arranging interviews and filming and photo opportunities with artists and Gallery staff;
  • Providing information about exhibitions, announcements and events;
  • Supplying copyright-cleared images and audio/video footage;
  • Organising site visits for journalists, photographers and camera crews.

For all media enquiries contact the Gallery's media unit | Email

Tour venues and dates

Cairns Regional Gallery
23 June – 5 August 2012

Outback Regional Gallery, Winton
11 August – 7 September 2012

Rockhampton Art Gallery
5 October – 18 November 2012

For queries regarding Regional Queensland Touring exhibitions and programs please contact the Project Officer, Regional Services.
T: (07) 3840 7198