The work of Australian artists has been collected by the Queensland Art Gallery since its foundation in 1895. These works date from the colonial period onwards, with rich holdings of paintings and sculptures by Australian expatriate artists living in the United Kingdom and France at the turn of the twentieth century. The Australian art collection tracks developments in the modern movement of the 1950s and 1960s, including abstractions and assemblages and conceptual/post-object art of the late 1960s and 1970s.
The Contemporary Australian Art collection is rich in paintings, major installation, cross-media and moving image works which are central to contemporary art practice. The Collection includes an outstanding group of works by major Queensland artists.
See the Australian Collection display at QAG. The reconfigured spaces capture major historical moments from first contact to colonisation, and exploration to immigration. Bringing the Indigenous and contemporary Australian collections together with the Gallery’s historical holdings, the display emphasises stories about Queensland and Brisbane from the region’s own perspective.
Daphne Mayo, Australia 1895-1982 / Olympian c.1946, cast after 1958 / Bronze / Purchased 19791995 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Surf Lifesaving Foundation and The United Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.) .
William Dobel, Australia 1899-1970 / The Cypriot 1940 / Oil on canvas / Gift of the Godfrey Rivers Trust through Miss Daphne Mayo 1943-1995 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery.
Patricia Piccinini, Australia b.1965 / The stags 2008 / Fibreglass, automotive paint, leather, steel, plastic, tyres / Purchased 2009 with funds from the Estate of Lawrence F. King in memory of the late Mr and Mrs S.W. King through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation and the Queensland Government's Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist.
Ian Fairweather / Pumicestone Passage 1957 / Gouache on cardboard / Gift of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2010. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Ian Fairweather, 1957/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2012.
Australian art to 1975
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, 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 interpretation of European impressionist painting, dubbed the 'Heidelberg School' or Australian Impressionism, defined a new direction for Australian painting, drawing on the familiar domestic landscape, urban life and 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. John Russell's impressionist seascape La Pointe de Morestil par mer Calme 1901, Rupert Bunny's grand Bathers 1906, Ethel Carrick Fox's On the beach c.1909, and 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.
The burgeoning impact of international modernism on Australian art in the first half of the twentieth century is well documented in the Australian collection with icons including Roland Wakelin's The bridge under construction 1928, William Dobell's The Cypriot 1940 and Russell Drysdale's Man feeding his dogs 1941. Peter Purves Smith rhythmic modernist portrait Lucile 1937 and Nora Heysen's bold Self portrait 1938 are more recent additions to the selection.
Holdings of post-war art include works with a particular connection to Queensland, such as Sidney Nolan's Mrs Fraser 1947, inspired by the story of Eliza Fraser's 1836 shipwreck on an island that would later be renamed after.
The Gallery has the most extensive holdings of the work of the reclusive and enigmatic Ian Fairweather. It showcases works from his early figurative paintings to his renowned abstract paintings, such as Café tables 1957, Kite flying 1958 and Epiphany 1962. A significant group of works by Fairweather was gifted to the Gallery in 2012 through the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts, including Trotting Race c.1956 and Chi-tien drunk, carried home 1964. 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.
Developments in the modern movement in the 1950s and 1960s are tracked through works of abstraction and assemblage. 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 move toward abstraction, the prevalence of which was cemented in the seminal National Gallery of Victoria exhibition 'The Field' in 1968. This shift is represented in paintings and sculpture by Ian Burn, Robert Hunter, Ron Robertson-Swann, and by Janet Dawson's Coffee table c.1964, oscillating as it does between design and art.
Contemporary Australian Art
The contemporary Australian holdings reflect the growing diversity of life in Australia. Australian artists access ideas and images from all over the world; they question Australia's identity, and the roles that they play in an international context.
The Collection includes in-depth holdings of work by Queensland artists, many of whom are nationally or internationally significant, among them Gordon Bennett, Eugene Carchesio, Robert MacPherson, Tracey Moffatt, Scott Redford, William Robinson and Judith Wright.
Collecting strategies have followed artists' increasing use of a wider variety of media, such as found objects, photography, digital media and film, while continuing to recognise the core collecting areas of painting, sculpture, drawing and printmaking. Holdings of key artists include major works by Peter Booth, eX de Medici, Fiona Hall, Bea Maddock, Callum Morton, Jan Nelson, Patricia Piccinini, Tony Tuckson and John Wolseley.
The photography collection includes the work of leading artists Anne Ferran, Bill Henson and Rosemary Laing and major suites by Pat Brassington, Tracey Moffatt and William Yang. Contemporary craft and design is represented by key practitioners in glass, ceramics, metalwork and jewellery such as Julie Blyfield, Susan Cohn, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Carl McConnell and Tom Moore.
The contemporary Australian collection also includes the conceptual/post-object art of the late 1960s and 1970s, and post-conceptual art, exploring ideas about art itself, representation, the nature of vision, and the status of the art object. These are represented with important works from artists such as Ian Burn, Aleks Danko and Peter Tyndall.
Ephemeral and time-based art, including performance art and its documentation, video, installation, electronic and digital art are areas of focus, with holdings of work by Susan Norrie, Mike Parr and David Rosetzky.
Connections with Indigenous Australia, between Australian cultural communities and with Asian and international cultures are an important focus for the contemporary Australian collection, represented by the likes of Tim Johnson, Guan Wei, Hossein Valamanesh and Savanhdary Vongpoothorn.
Queensland Heritage encompasses the work of artists in all media, both historical and contemporary, and aims to establish a distinctive regional identity for Queensland. Works by visiting artists who documented the state's early development, such as Conrad Martens in 1851, are also included.
The Gallery acquires works by artists who represent the cultural endeavours of the state at a national level. Substantial bodies of work by each artist document their development and maturity. Queensland artists such as Isaac Walter Jenner, Vida Lahey, LJ Harvey and his School, Bessie Gibson, Vincent Sheldon, Kenneth Macqueen, Jon Molvig, Ian Fairweather and Carl McConnell are collected in this way, with many having been the subjects of in-depth exhibitions.
Early Queensland photography is a focus, with the earliest work so far acquired is a photograph of pioneers of Central Queensland titled The Archer Brothers with Lionel Knight Rice, which was taken in Brisbane in the late 1860s.
British-born artist R Godfrey Rivers, who can be called the 'father' of art in Queensland, is represented with Under the jacaranda 1903, one of the icons of the Gallery. Another icon is Rivers's pupil Vida Lahey's Monday Morning 1912. Bessie Gibson's Jeune femme en rose pale 1932, which was hung in the Paris Salon in that, was acquired in 2007. Gibson and sculptor Harold Parker were the only Queensland artists to establish a reputation in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century.
The colourful floral watercolours by Vida Lahey and Macqueen's landscapes of Millmerran on the Darling Downs are among the major achievements of the interwar period, while William Bustard's oil painting Brisbane from Vulture Street 1937 gives a view of the developing city.
The early postwar period saw Charles Blackman establishing links with Queensland in works such as City lights 1952 and with the Johnstone Gallery, whose stable of Australian artists included Arthur Boyd, Russell Drysdale and Sidney Nolan. They were soon joined by Queensland artists Ray Crooke, Margaret Olley, Arthur Evan Read, John Rigby and sculptors Leonard and Kathleen Shillam. The 1950s also saw the arrival of Jon Molvig, whose intense personality and expressive style charged the visual culture of Queensland, while rivalry between Milton Moon and Carl McConnell created interest in the field of studio ceramics.
The combination of artistic personalities, the proliferation of art prizes and the success of commercial art galleries provided the matrix which enhanced the artistic development of Brisbane and Queensland over the next decades.