Whistler Acquisition a major highlight of new works at the National Gallery of Australia

NGA Frederick McCubbin Bush idyll 1893In a coup for Australia, the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has secured James A. Whistler’s Harmony in blue and pearl: The Sands, Dieppe (1885). Purchased for $1.4million and with the support of a handful of generous private donors from Australia and the US, this rare seascape painted on a small scale belongs to a group of works described as ‘superficially, the size of your hand, but artistically, as large as a continent.’

“Notwithstanding the fact that Whistler was American, we intend to display this marvel of rapid brushwork in the room with our Australian Impressionist collection, featuring masterworks by Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin,” said Gerard Vaughan, NGA Director.

“Whistler’s connection with this turning point in Australian painting – considered highly innovative and contemporary for the time – makes this work relevant to our national collection.”

Mr Vaughan expressed his gratitude to Allan and Maria Myers, Andrew and Tracey Sisson, the Dr Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation and the Neilson Foundation for their support.

Whistler’s approach to depicting landscape through flat planes of colour painted on 9” x 5” cigar box lids sparked the imagination of Australian artist Tom Roberts through his encounter with Whistler’s London exhibition in 1884, which directly influenced Australia’s first avant-garde exhibition, the 9 by 5 Impressions show in Melbourne in 1889.

In addition, the NGA is proud to announce it has secured on loan from a generous private collector Frederick McCubbin’s large, early masterpiece, Bush Idyll (1893). This iconic painting is widely recognised not only as one of the artist’s finest works, but also as a key, defining expression of the creativity of the group of Australia’s Impressionists; Bush Idyll is a milestone in the history of Australian art. The NGA is now pleased to share it with the Australian public as it takes its place amongst the other masterpieces that surround it.

These include Streeton’s The Point Wharf, Mosman Bay (1893), painted soon after his arrival in Sydney from Melbourne, and arguably Streeton’s most important Sydney Harbour view remaining in private hands. This has been recently acquired with assistance from Allan and Maria Myers, Paula Fox, John and Rosanna Hindmarsh and Maurice Cashmere and Claire Parkhurst. These new works are now on display in the Australian Impressionism galleries.

The NGA has launched a summer trail through the building to celebrate ‘The Art of Giving’, to recognise the many generous donors who have made so much possible through their patronage, and to show our visitors what is new. Highlights include:

• Paul Sérusier’s transformative masterpiece, Woman from Savoy (La Savoyarde) 1890, recently added to the national collection and installed with two important works by Sérusier and Emile Bernard kindly loaned from the Kerry Stokes Collection;

• Five works from Sidney Nolan’s 1964 Antarctica pictures, purchased by the NGA Foundation. Nolan’s Antarctica paintings reveal his work in a new light, evoking the vast, desolate emptiness of the world’s southernmost tip. Further to the loan of the McCubbin masterpiece, the same private collector has also loaned to the NGA a key work of exceptional quality from Sidney Nolan’s 1962 series on Burke and Wills.

• The NGA’s collection of Hockney’s works on paper is one of the most extensive in the world. Thanks to the Orde Poynton Bequest, it now includes new works made on an iPad, The arrival of spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 31 May, No.2 (2011), and Yosemite II, October 5th 2011 (2011);

• Gordon and Marilyn Darling’s transformative gift to the nation of 57 Albert Namatjira watercolours allow the seminal Indigenous painter’s work to be shared with generations to come;

• Tasmanian painter Philip Wolfhagen’s dramatic, evocative cloud formations over the landscape in A litany of vapours (2007) – a monumental 7 panel work, has been purchased with the proceeds of the NGA Foundation Gala Dinner Fund 2017. It hangs in the principal ‘Art of Giving’ gallery featuring other contemporary, and near contemporary, works recently added to the permanent collection by Rosalie Gascoigne – donated by Hester Gascoigne, Brian Blanchflower and Ildiko Kovacs – donated by James and Jacqui Erskine, and Akio Makigawa – donated by Tom Lowenstein;

• Sam Jinks’ emotive commission, The deposition (2017), created especially for the current contemporary Hyper Real exhibition. Rendered in extreme life-like detail, with every hair individually placed, it is a triumph of the hyperreal genre;

• Five early Papunya boards (1972-3) join the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Galleries, acquired from the Allan Scott Collection with the help of generous Australian and US donors led by Tony and Carol Berg; and

• An exceptionally rare and important Papua New Guinea carved figure of the man-eating god Mugus, Lord of the Pigs. Already securely dated at least to the 17th century, new scientific tests may prove that it is considerably older.

For more information, visit: www.nga.gov.au for details.

Image: Frederick McCubbin, Bush idyll, 1893 oil on canvas. Kindly lent from a private collection.