NGA celebrates Australian art with major changes to its galleries

Tom Roberts Opening Parliament 1901The NGA is changing, in many fundamental ways. With the rehang of the nation’s art collection underway, the NGA will celebrate one of Australia’s greatest artists with a spectacular Tom Roberts exhibition opening in December 2015.

Tom Roberts will bring together major works from public and private collections, from the early days studying at London’s Royal Academy in 1883 until 1931. Featuring over 130 works of art, the exhibition is remarkable in its ambition and scope, and is set to be unveiled together with a complete rehang of the national collection.

“We have commenced an ambitious project to transform the experience at the NGA,” says Director, Gerard Vaughan. “Every time you visit the Gallery there will be new discoveries as we constantly revitalise the galleries dedicated to the permanent collection.”

“The Tom Roberts exhibition, which explores the idea of truly Australian imagery in the lead up to Federation – from Shearing the rams to A break away! – is a must see for all Australians, and especially school students.”

The paintings by Tom Roberts are some of the most recognisable and loved by Australians. His vision of life in Australia helped to define our visual culture. He was among the first to promote outdoor landscape painting and his Impressionist landscapes set the tone for much that was to follow.

Roberts’ seminal painting, which he called the Big Picture will be shown with his other major works. The enormous painting (3 x 5 metres), captures recognisable portraits of 265 dignitaries at the Federation of Australia ceremony in May of 1901. This is the first time the painting has moved since it was hung in Parliament House in 1988.

With over 130 works, the exhibition includes paintings, pastels, drawings, prints and sculpture; 53 portraits, 53 landscapes, his famous national narratives, still-lifes, nudes and figures in landscape.

“Roberts strongly believed that a great painting of one time and place could be an expression for all time and of all places – and this could not be truer of any other Australian artist’s work.’ said Curator, Dr Anna Gray.

The rehang of the National Gallery includes moving the entire Australian collection downstairs, and while many favourites and highlights will remain, there will also be new works. International art, including Jackson Pollock’s famous Blue Poles (1952), will move upstairs into refurbished gallery spaces.

Exclusive to Canberra, Tom Roberts opens at the National Gallery of Australia on 4 December 2015. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketek. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Tom Roberts, Opening of the First Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia by H.R.H. The Duke of Cornwall and York (Later King George V), May 9, 1901, 1903, oil on canvas. On permanent loan to the Parliament of Australia from the British Royal Collection