Visions of Adelaide

 28 October 2005 - 5 February 2006


Spanning the first 50 years of European settlement, this delightful exhibition of 117 works of art chronicles the growth of Adelaide from a fledgling colony to a sophisticated city. It reveals early Adelaide as a lively centre of cultural, social, sporting, civic and industrial activity. From an idea of pencil on paper, to bricks and mortar, the city’s unique history is viewed through the eyes of its earliest artists.

The life of the colony was recorded within days of the first landing in December 1836. By 1840, Adelaide had a progressive arts community attracting amateurs as well as some of the finest artists working in colonial Australia. Thirty-three artists are represented in Visions of Adelaide including S.T. Gill, John Michael Skipper, George Fife Angas, Alexander Schramm and Eugene von Guérard. The state’s first professional woman artist, Martha Berkeley features alongside the work of Mary Hindmarsh, youngest daughter of the colony’s first Governor, John Hindmarsh. Rare watercolour paintings by Adelaide’s Surveyor-General Colonel William Light are a highlight.

These early pictures of Adelaide are valued not only for their aesthetic qualities but also as historic records of social and environmental change. Images of splendid new sandstone buildings, bustling street scenes and a thriving Port Adelaide point to South Australia’s civic pride and rapid industrial growth during the first decades. Other works show the changing relations between European settlers and the Kaurna and Njarrindjeri People, and the devastating impact of settlement on the richly-vegetated open woodland and forests.

Works have been drawn principally from the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, with loans from the Adelaide City Council Archives, State Library of South Australia, South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide as well as from private collections. Many works are new acquisitions or works not seen before in Adelaide, selected from other major public collections such as the National Library of Australia, Canberra and the Mitchell Library, Sydney. 

Visions of Adelaide is proudly sponsored by BankSA. It has been curated by Tracey Lock-Weir,
the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Curator of Australian Art who is also author of the accompanying exhibition book. Lock-Weir has undertaken extensive research in preparation for this exhibition, uncovering some of the earliest depictions of the city and locating the sites of many of the images in the exhibition. Visions of Adelaide brings a new focus to these rare and early images of the city, and recognises the substantial artistic legacy of the early history of Adelaide.


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