Daniel Thomas

Single-name status is granted to very few. In Australian art, ‘Daniel’ has always been Daniel Thomas: curator, museum director, walking memory, standard-setter (and inveterate corrector of errors), passionate lover of art, friend of Australian artists. His life’s work has been establishing the understanding of Australian art in our art museums, and his influence is incalculable. The late Andrew Sayers rightly described Thomas as ‘the single most influential curator in creating a shape for the history of Australian art’, but as editors Hannah Fink and Steven Miller observe, ‘Daniel is everywhere and nowhere: the greatest authority, hiding in the detail of someone’s else’s footnote, and in the judgements that have made the canon of Australian art.’

... (read more)

Long before the era of digital media, the catalogue raisonné evolved as a virtual art museum to house the oeuvre of a single artist. Such scholarly tomes are known by the French adjective meaning a ‘reasoned’ catalogue, implying a tool for making sense. Thus by assembling each work with precise details on medium, dating, and provenance, an artist’s career can ...

David Walsh is a tease; he enjoys wordplay. The founder and owner of the Museum of Old and New Art (he prefers Mona, not MONA) concedes that his private playground is entirely a matter of self-gratification, like ‘the sin of Onan’. Hence the cheeky titles ‘Monanism’ for his inaugural exhibition of some 460 works, and Monanisms for the beautifully pr ...

The Mondrians in Paths to Abstraction 1867–1917, Terence Maloon’s beautiful, refined exhibition held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from June to September this year, and the Gauguins in Ron Radford’s more spectacular Masterpieces from Paris that closed at the National Gallery in April, were drawcards. We last saw a group of Mondrians in 1961; Gauguin had never been properly seen in Australia. The exhibitions and the related books together amounted to a superb and very up-to-date two-part lesson in the history of modernism.

... (read more)

Encounters with Australian Modern Art by Christopher Heathcote, Patrick McCaughey and Sarah Thomas

by
February 2009, no. 308

Eva Gandel and Marc Besen Married in Melbourne in 1950 and soon began collecting current art. After the closure of John Reed’s privately established but short-lived ‘Museum of Modern Art & Design of Australia’, they bought a few of its de-accessioned possessions, paintings by John Perceval and Sidney Nolan. In the 1970s they added works by recentlydeceased Sydney artists William Dobell, Ralph Balson, and Tony Tuckson. These were perceived ‘gaps’ in a collection of recent Australian art. Perhaps the systematic history of Australian art then profusely displayed in the private collection formed by their relative Joseph Brown, and first published in 1974 as Outlines of Australian Art, had inspired the Besens to be more systematic. Hitherto, they had mostly encountered local work by living artists.

... (read more)

First impressions are unfavourable. The cover is ugly, and too cute: human-headed sheep, male and female, wait motionless for a drought to end while wearing prime ministerial bush-visit hats. We have read Frank Campbell’s rebuke in the Australian: the author Jeanette Hoorn did not know a fox’s tail from a dingo’s. Inside, however, there is a cheering profusion of illustrations, placed in unusually reader-friendly closeness to the relevant discussion, and they include a feast of the best Australian paintings. There are some interesting sources in English eighteenth-century art and, much less familiar, some parallels in German fascist art.

... (read more)

Australian Painting 1788–2000 by Bernard Smith, with Terry Smith and Christopher Heathcote

by
April 2002, no. 240

Bernard Smith gave us Australian art. Before him, the subject was not part of our cultural discourse. We knew and could place the work of Michelangelo and Monet but not that of Eugene von Guérard, Tom Roberts or Grace Cossington Smith.

... (read more)