Ian Fairweather’s Gethsemane 1958 Gifted to QAGOMA
The Queensland Art Gallery │Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) has been gifted an outstanding work of Australian art that will be displayed from 30 September when the Gallery unveils its reimagined Australian Collection.
QAGOMA Director Chris Saines today announced Ian Fairweather’s iconic painting Gethsemane 1958 had been gifted by Philip Bacon, am, Special Patron of the Gallery’s Foundation and member of the QAGOMA Foundation Committee.
Premier and Arts Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said Mr Bacon’s generous gift of Fairweather’s Gethsemane will enable Queensland’s future generations to enjoy the work of one of Australia’s greatest artists who created some of his most celebrated works here in Queensland, on Bribie Island.
‘Philip Bacon’s donation of Gethsemane is one of the most generous single gifts of Australian art in QAGOMA’s history, and a pivotal work from a very important period in Ian Fairweather’s career,’ Ms Palaszczuk said.
‘I am delighted this work will feature as part of the reopening of the Australian Collection Display from 29 September 2017.’
Mr Saines said the Gallery had been actively acquiring and exhibiting Fairweather’s work for more than 50 years, presenting major retrospectives on the artist in 1965 and 1994, and an exhibition focussed on his late works in 2012.
‘The entry of this painting into the state’s Collection strengthens our ability to present and interpret the works of this great Australian artist and helps give a more comprehensive understanding of Fairweather’s achievements.’
In his lifetime, Fairweather created two masterworks relating to stories of Christ’s life – the occasion of Christ’s birth which he painted in 1962, titled Epiphany, purchased by the Queensland Art Gallery the year it was painted and Gethsemane painted earlier in 1958, which depicts Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion.
Importantly, both these major paintings were created while Fairweather was living on Bribie Island.
Fairweather’s biblical images were not intended to emphasise a particular religious message by the artist, but to convey an aesthetic experience of the subject and the event.
Gethsemane was selected for the Blake Prize in 1959. In 1961 the painting was acquired by Nobel Prize-winning Australian author Patrick White who donated it to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1974. It is thought the painting was in the mind of the author as he wrote some of Australia’s greatest literary works. In 2010 the AGNSW auctioned Gethsemane as part of a deaccessioning program and Philip Bacon purchased it. Seven years later, Philip has generously donated it to QAGOMA.
From 29 September, Gethsemane will be displayed alongside the Gallery’s Epiphany and another of Fairweather’s biblical paintings, Palm Sunday 1951. Bus stop 1965 and Pumistone passage 1957, two other works by the artist gifted to QAGOMA in recent years by the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts will also feature in the new Australian Collection display.
Ian Fairweather (1891-1974) was born in Scotland and studied at London's Slade School of Fine Art from 1920 to 1924. In 1927 he left England and spent the next two decades travelling to Canada, China, Indonesia, South America, the Philippines and Japan. After returning to London in 1952 after a near fatal raft trip from Darwin to Timor, he travelled to Australia in August 1953, retreating from society and establishing himself in a hut on Bribie Island where he remained until his death.
Philip Bacon established Philip Bacon Galleries Pty Ltd in Brisbane in 1974. Philip is a staunch supporter of the arts and currently serves as a board member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation and Major Brisbane Festivals. In 1999 he was made a Member, Order of Australia and in the same year received a Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) from the University of Queensland. In 2002 he received a Doctor of the University from Griffith University, and a Doctor of the University from Queensland University of Technology in 2005. In 2009 he was named a ‘Queensland Great’, and also was announced as AbaF Goldman Sachs Philanthropist of the year.
‘A prominent gallery director, philanthropist and significant long-time supporter of the Gallery and its Foundation, Philip’s outstanding support has included his time as a Gallery Trustee from 2012 through to early 2017, including his role as Deputy Chair of the Board from 2014,’ Mr Saines said.
Philip Bacon’s significant generosity was recognised in 2009 through the naming of three specific exhibition spaces at the Queensland Art Gallery as the Philip Bacon Galleries.