Paintings, Porcelain & Photography: Geelong Gallery
Geoffrey Edwards, Director of Geelong Gallery discusses the gallery's origins in the late 1800's through to contemporary times, focusing on paintings, porcelain and photography from its significant collection of some 6000 items.
The video features artworks by Eugene von Guerard, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Peter Daverington, Worcester ceramic manufacturers and Polixeni Papapetrou.
Geelong is one of the oldest galleries in Australia, established in 1896 when a group of 12 passionate citizens realized that Victoria's second city, and a rapidly growing city at that, really needed an arts institution of this kind. 1900, the collection begins and in 1915 the institution that had been using leased and borrowed spaces until then moves to this purpose-built institution that we're in right now.
It's an extraordinary permanent collection. Some 6,000 works of art, mostly Australian but also European, Asian, and some American, and some great paintings that talk about the history of this region. But there's also a great deal of contemporary art, paintings and works on paper and sculpture.
And because the rooms are superb but we frankly don't have enough of them at the moment, we hang the collections around particular themes, the classical gaze or the Romantic tradition or the stylized figure. This particular thematic hang we take great pride in preparing and presenting as a real point of difference in the way this gallery is experienced as opposed to others in the sector.
Von Guerard's View of Geelong is arguably the great artist's masterpiece. It's a great panorama, and it suggests the rosy destiny of the region and of course the prosperity of pastoral enterprise in this state. It is almost cinematic in its panorama. There's this colossal sky, which anyone driving up and down the road between Melbourne and Geelong will recognize. You actually see beyond in the great distance the Dandenongs, you see Arthurs Seat. You see a famous steam packet plying the choppy waters of Corio Bay.
Well, the Bush Burial is a landmark in the history of this institution, because it was one of the first three or four works acquired for the permanent collection. And of course it is one of the landmarks in McCubbin's career, the great big salon-style pictures that tell the story of the pioneering families in this part of Australia.
But it's quite a marvelous feat of Australian Impressionism. There is the quality of light and there is a quality of the moment. The emotion of the moment is all there in this great picture. It is one of the icons of Australian art. It remains a destination picture.
Ocean Blue, Lorne, by Arthur Streeton is one of the gallery's most recent acquisitions, and of course it acknowledges the fact that where we can, we collect works that tell the story of the region and this work perfectly does that. It is just the quintessence of Australian summer. You can hear the waves. You can smell the eucalypt in the air. You can just see the saplings moving, or you sense that you can. It is a sketch probably made largely on the spot and it has all that sense of spontaneity about it.
Welcome to the Pleasure Dome, by Peter Daverington is a fairly recent acquisition. It's a major contemporary work, and of course it reflects this gallery's commitment to contemporary art and contemporary artists. And it sits in our wall in this particular display that talks about the Romantic tradition because this is the work that alludes to frontiers both in terms of 19th century painting of wilderness subjects, in this case an American wilderness and frontier subject, and it also relates to the frontier of digital technology.
The Worcester card tray that features a magnificent painting of Buckingham Palace as its decoration is part of a fairly large collection and very specialized collection that Geelong has assembled of British painted porcelain in the period 1750 to 1850. And this work is a major work by Worcester, a major painter, and it is just ravishing in its detail where it shows Buckingham Palace not from the familiar vista that we know from the front, but from the gardens at the back. And so it's a ravishing, almost watercolorist vista of the palace, but rendered in glazes on a fine porcelain body.
In the Wimmera, 1864, by Polixeni Papapetrou, is a marvelous contemporary photograph. It's a photograph nonetheless whose subject that alludes to an event in the Wimmera in 1864 when three children went missing in the scrub land, but it's part of Papapetrou's history of photographing her own children and her children's friends as the subjects in the pictures.
The gallery is very seriously committed to contemporary art, but also to contemporary photography, and Polixeni Papapetrou is a very prominent contemporary Australian photographer.
Well, the Geelong gallery is such a draw a card for many reasons, the wonderful building, the great collections. There are many works that are the icons of their kind in the land, but also there's virtually something different for people to see every time they come in. There is that sense of discovery in so many of the great works that it is a joy to see our visitors seeing new things every time they come in on the walls or in the showcases.