How a lot are you aware concerning the NSW Artwork Gallery? Do this fast quiz


When Michael Model was appointed director of the NSW Artwork Gallery in 2012, he was shocked to seek out that no story had been written concerning the establishment. The Victoria Nationwide Gallery, established 10 years earlier than the Sydney Gallery in 1861, had already printed two.

He resolved {that a} main a part of the gallery’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations can be a publication devoted to its fascinating historical past.

Archibald sitter: Former NSW Governor Sir Roden Cutler, composer Peter Sculthorpe, artist Margaret Olley, writer Thomas Keneally and entertainer Barry Humphries pose on the NSW Artwork Gallery with their Archibald portraits in in 1992.

Credit score:Rick Stevens

As an archivist for the artwork gallery, I used to be commissioned to write down the ebook. The Nationwide Gallery of Artwork is essentially the most full and richest artwork archive in Australia, so there was an abundance of supply materials.

Nonetheless, it was an incredible act of confidence to permit a voice the chance to inform this story, when a set of multi-author essays could be one other risk. It gave me full freedom to find out the content material and select the pictures, which made the intimidating job a pleasure on the identical time.

To some extent, the archive itself has formed historical past. Each time attainable I might quote from letters, interviews, memos and different unique sources, making an attempt to let the voices of the previous converse for themselves. I used to be assisted by an exquisite crew of gallery volunteer guides.

Margaret Casey with her four children circa 1889. They were curators of the gallery.

Margaret Casey together with her 4 youngsters circa 1889. They had been curators of the gallery.
Credit score:Henry King

In the course of the first shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, they discovered no extra steerage within the constructing and so had been tasked with transcribing a whole bunch of paperwork from the archive. Many superb information had been found throughout our analysis – about our constructing and the artwork and individuals who made the gallery the fantastic place it’s at present.

How a lot are you aware about our historical past? Here is a fast artwork quiz to check your information, and if you wish to learn the complete story, The Exhibitionists: A Historical past of the Sydney Artwork Gallery of New South Wales reveals (nearly) every part.

The 1906 façade of the National Art Gallery of New South Wales from the Art Gallery of NSW.

The 1906 façade of the Nationwide Artwork Gallery of New South Wales from the Artwork Gallery of NSW.Credit score:Artwork Gallery of New South Wales Institutional Archive.

Query 1: The NSW Artwork Gallery has been identified by many names. What was his first?

The gallery had its origins within the NSW Academy of Artwork, established in 1871. 9 years later, in 1880, Governor Lord Loftus formally devoted a constructing within the Royal Botanic Backyard because the Artwork Gallery of New South Wales. In 1883, the title was modified to the New South Wales Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, which grew to become official when it was included into the Act of Parliament in 1899. Nonetheless, earlier than the Federation and for a few years later, it was extra generally known as Nationwide. Artwork Gallery, the title displayed above its entrance porch. In 1958, beneath a brand new Act, it grew to become the New South Wales Artwork Gallery, which has been identified ever since.

Query 2: The primary constructing on the gallery’s present website has been dubbed …
(a) [Henry] Parkes Palace; (b) The grain of artwork; (c) The Centennial Pavilion; (d) Casey’s home

The primary constructing on the positioning was known as “the grain of artwork.” Shortly erected in 1885, it had tough brick partitions and a serrated roof and seemed like a manufacturing facility from the skin. It was at all times understood because the basement of a a lot bigger constructing, which was by no means constructed. The “artwork barn” was in use till 1968.

The original Horbury Hunt building, known as

The unique Horbury Hunt constructing, referred to as the “Artwork Barn” within the NSW Artwork Gallery.Credit score:NSW Artwork Gallery

Casey’s cottage referred to a two-story, three-bedroom terrace that stood behind the artwork gallery, the place guardian Margaret Casey and subsequent generations of Caseys lived. When Ma Casey, the gallery’s first worker, died in 1907, it was reported within the press that she had died “at her dwelling, the Nationwide Gallery of New South Wales”.

Exterior view of the Keeper's Lodge - known as Casey's Lodge at the back of the New South Wales Art Gallery circa 1968.

Exterior view of the Keeper’s Lodge – referred to as Casey’s Lodge behind the New South Wales Artwork Gallery circa 1968.Credit score:NSW Archive Artwork Gallery

One of many goals of this ebook was to write down a social and cultural historical past of the gallery, fairly than focusing solely on its collections and exhibitions, highlighting the tales of forgotten characters at present. All of them performed an necessary position within the lifetime of the artwork gallery, typically dedicating their total working life to the establishment.

Query 3: The gallery’s first solo exhibition was held in 1877. Who was the artist?
(a) British artist Edward Poynter; (b) the French artist Edouard Detaille; (c) Australian artist Adelaide Ironside; (d) Australian artist Conrad Martens

The primary solo exhibition was in July 1877 by an Australian feminine artist, Adelaide Ironside, when the Artwork Gallery took its first place in a former dance studio on Elizabeth Road. One of many works on show, The marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, is within the gallery’s everlasting assortment.

The wedding feast at Cana of Galilee 1861, reworked 1863, is part of the first exhibition of the Art Gallery.

The marriage feast at Cana of Galilee 1861, reworked 1863, is a part of the primary exhibition of the Artwork Gallery.Credit score:NSW Archive Artwork Gallery

Query 4: What a part of the gallery was criticized for being constructed by prisoners “beneath the shadow of the gallows”?
(a) The marble staircase resulting in the library; (b) The basement; (c) The portico; (d) stone plinths for equestrian statues exterior the gallery

This refers back to the magnificent marble staircase resulting in the gallery library (quickly to be relocated as a part of the revitalization of the Sydney Fashionable Venture. Our new constructing designed by the award-winning structure agency Pritzker, SANAA, is because of be accomplished by the top of 2022). It is among the most stunning staircases within the state and was constructed totally of marble mined in NSW. Nonetheless, it was controversial, because the stone was carved into the jail at Bathurst. The Union of Marble and Slate Staff protested that the prisoners had stolen the work from the free employees.

Query 5: Which pre-federation governor, who was an impressive patron of the artwork gallery, signed into drive his first parliamentary act of presidency and was an inspiration to Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead revisited?
(a) Lord Loftus (1879–85); (b) Baron Carrington (1885–90); (c) The Earl of Jersey (1891–93); (d) Lord Beauchamp (1899–1901)

Once I tried a few of these questions, former NSW Artwork Minister Don Harwin – a historical past buff – knew that the controversial, however immensely sympathetic, Lord Beauchamp had signed into drive the gallery’s first Parliamentary Act. He was additionally a patron of the gallery and lent works from his non-public assortment to be exhibited in 1900.

Query 6: What paintings within the gallery is at all times voted the favourite of the individuals?
(a) Pablo Picasso, Bare in a rocking chair, 1956; (b) Lin Onus, fruit bats, 1991; (c) Tom Roberts, the cough of gold, 1894; (d) Margaret Preston, I lived in Berowra, 1941

Whereas Sir Edward John Poynter’s The go to of the queen of Sheba to King Solomon, 1881-1890, and spring frost, 1919, by Elioth Gruner, is a high-ranking, one of the beloved works within the assortment is Lin Onus. Fruit bats 1991.

Fruit of Lin Onus 1991.

Fruit of Lin Onus 1991.Credit score:NSW Archive Artwork Gallery

On this sculpture, a colony of flying foxes hangs from a clothesline by Hills Hoist. It was introduced on the inaugural exhibition in Yiribana, which is devoted to indigenous artwork, in 1994. Cara Pinchbeck, senior curator of Aboriginal Artwork and Torres Strait Islander, says in lots of ways in which this work it’s analogous to Yiribana itself – a reminder of the presence of Aboriginal tradition in our backyards.

My artwork gallery historical past is drawn from materials that has absorbed me as its archivist for over 30 years.


It’s an archive stuffed with character just like the individuals who created it. A few of its contents are playful, some subversive, however every part has been of curiosity to me as an archivist and I hope it is going to be for others as properly.

Steven Miller is the historian and senior librarian on the NSW Artwork Gallery. In his ebook The exhibitionists: A Historical past of the Sydney Artwork Gallery of New South Wales is offered now.

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