Front of the Gallery

About the Collection

Australian Paintings and Sculpture

Of particular strength is the Gallery’s nineteenth-century collection, which shows in depth the colonial art of New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. The South Australian colonial art collection is noteworthy for revealing South Australia as home to a high level of artistic production for a period shortly after European settlement in 1836 to the Victorian gold rushes of the early 1850s. This rich artistic heritage is demonstrated in the fine paintings by its leading artists such as Martha Berkeley, S.T. Gill, Alexander Schramm and John Crossland.

In 1897 the Gallery received the first major cash bequest fund to any Australian art museum. The substantial bequest of Sir Thomas Elder transformed the collection, enabling the purchase of celebrated paintings such as Tom Roberts’s A break away!, 1891, Frederick McCubbin’s A Ti-tree glade, 1897, and Hans Heysen’s Mystic Morn, 1904. More recent significant purchases such as Charles Conder’s A holiday at Mentone, 1888, and Arthur Streeton’s Early summer gorse in bloom, 1888, further strengthened our Australian Impressionist collection. Major additions by Rupert Bunny, E. Phillips Fox and George Lambert followed, enhancing our highly coveted Federation and Edwardian holdings.

The Gallery’s renowned collection of paintings by Modern Australian women artists of the 1930s and 1940s is exceptional in quality and includes major examples by Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, Grace Crowley, Stella Bowen, Nora Heysen and Dorrit Black. This collection is supported with key paintings by Horace Trenerry, Kathleen Sauerbier, Jacqueline Hick, Dora Chapman, Ivor Francis, Douglas Roberts and Dusan Marek, which show in particular the various developments of South Australian Modern art, revealing its significance as a progressive modern Australian art centre.

While the Australian twentieth-century collection includes renowned examples of Modernism by well-known artists Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, John Brack, Peter Booth and Tony Tuckson, it is also distinguished by its extraordinarily fine Australian Aboriginal art collection.

More recently, growing interest in funding Australian contemporary art has seen the addition of several dynamic works enter the Gallery's contemporary Australian art collection: Robert Macpherson's Mayfair: Xmas (Wildfire red) for Mrs Pretty, 2001-02, Fiona Hall's Cell culture, 2002, Hossein Valamanesh's Fallen branch, 2005, and Imants Tillers's Shadow of the Hereafter, 2007, are among these new highlights which demonstrate the Gallery's ongoing commitment to collecting in the exciting arena of contemporary Australian art.