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Maria Zagala

One of the notable things about living in a small country is that you can enjoy many first-rate second-rate things. Given the post-Renaissance domination of the visual arts by painting, prints have for a long time been driven into a supplementary role by artists, historians, and the market, and, as a result, have tended to be treated as minor works, curios, or historical illustrations. Because, moreover, Australia was a far-flung colony of the British Empire for much of its modern history, treated by its masters as ancillary to ‘the main game’, this situation mitigated against the acquisition of many exceptional paintings. Australians bought prints instead. State galleries acquired staggering print collections, from Dürer through to Rembrandt, Piranesi, Blake and Goya to the present. As its subtitle suggests, A Beautiful Line: Italian Prints from Mantegna to Piranesi showcases one important local collection, in Adelaide. Running the gamut from Renaissance to Rococo, the exhibition presents 135 prints ranging from the iconic to the obscure, culminating with works by such luminaries as Canaletto and Giambattista Tiepolo.

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Among those in the field, Bob Noye was known for his exhaustive collection of, and research into, the history of nineteenth-century South Australian photography. The website he established was the most detailed information available on the topic, yet he was extremely secretive about his holdings. When Noye died suddenly in 2002, several institutions vied for his collection, with the Art Gallery of South Australia the fortunate recipient of the Noye family’s goodwill. With generous funding assistance, AGSA acquired the collection, which comprised nearly five thousand photographs and negatives, plus his research archive. This publication, and the exhibition it accompanies ­– the first to focus on the first hundred years of South Australian photography – is dedicated to Noye and is founded upon his passion.

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