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The Ewing Collection

Rupert Bunny New Step 1908Friday, 4 March 2011

The Ewing Collection, University of Melbourne

One of the pleasures of visiting the University of Melbourne’s Ian Potter Museum of Art is the high likelihood of seeing highlights from their permanent collection, which includes works of Australian art from the late 18th Century to the present day (this, of course, not taking into account their International collection, that has artefacts dating back to the Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome). The Museum currently has on display works from the Collection of Dr Samuel Arthur Ewing, which includes paintings, watercolours and drawings by Australian artists from the 1860s to the 1940s.

E Philips Fox - Rocks and SeaThe first room focuses on paintings from the collection, and includes a romantic landscape of Mount Buffalo by Nicholas Chevalier (1862); an iridescent twilight scene by J.F. Paterson, Evening at Croydon (c.1890); clear and fresh Sir Hans Heysen of River Flats (1930); a panoramic Sir Arthur Streeton of Cremorne (1907) and the iconic St Mark’s of Venice (1908), remarkable for its dappled sunlight effects. There is a beautifully intimate Rupert Bunny, The New Step (1908), of two ladies in diaphanous white dressing gowns within a pinkish interior; most “impressionistic” E. Phillips Fox of Rocks and Sea (1911), almost Monet-like in its appearance; and a shimmering Fred McCubbin’s Frosty Morning of the Como House environs (1910), which I am certain was exhibited in the artist’s recent retrospective at the Bendigo Fine Art Gallery.

Norman Lindsay Dr DeathThe second room features an abundance of drawings and watercolours, including most unique fan designs by Sir Arthur Streeton, very much in the Art Nouveau taste; numerous classic red and brown gum tree landscapes by Sir Hans Heysen; a beautiful selection of predominantly nocturnal works by Blamire Young; a selection of works by the talented J.J. Hilder, who died at the age of 35, with so much regrettably unfulfilled promise; a few excellent sketches by Charles Conder; a delicate landscape by Penleigh Boyd; and a number of watercolours by Norman Lindsay, including a most unusual black and white illustration, Dr. Death, refreshingly devoid of his signature voluptuous ladies.

John Longstaff Dr Samuel EwingA portrait of Dr Ewing by John Longstaff greets the visitor to this exhibition, a sober composition in a sparse and sombre colour palette, enlivened only by the gleaming white scarf of the sitter. The wall text explains that Dr Ewing was a University of Melbourne graduate, who donated his collection to the University in 1938, with a touching sentiment that ‘our youth may be inspired with the beauty as well as a deeper love of their country by the works of our artists’. One may only wonder what the future generations would make of Australia based on the museum’s contemporary art collections in a fifty or a hundred years’ time…

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

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