The exhibition maps the period of rapid and intense change; from the impact of the first settlers and colonisation on the indigenous people to the pioneering nation-building of the nineteenth century, through to the enterprising urbanisation of the last century. Reflecting the vastness of the land and the diversity of its people, early, as well as contemporary Aboriginal art sits alongside the work of the first colonial settlers, immigrant artists of the twentieth century and the work of some of today’s most established Australian artists.
The exhibition includes works by Aboriginal artists such as Albert Namatjira (1902-59), Rover Thomas (c.1926-98), Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-96) and a number of artists from the Papunya Tula group of the Western Desert. Nineteenth century European immigrants such as John Glover (1767-1849) and Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901) also feature, as well as the Australian Impressionists whose paintings relied heavily on the mythology of the Australian bush: Arthur Streeton (1867-1943), Tom Roberts (1856-1931), a student of the Royal Academy Schools, Charles Conder (1868-1909) and Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917). Early Modernists such as Margaret Preston (1875-1963), Grace Cossington Smith (1892-1984) and Roy de Maistre (1894-1968) hang alongside the leading twentieth-century painters: Arthur Boyd (1920-99), Albert Tucker (1914-99), Rosalie Gascoigne (1917-99), Fred Williams (1927-82), Brett Whiteley (1939-92) and Sidney Nolan RA. The exhibition ends in the twenty-first century with internationally recognised artists such as Bill Henson (b.1955), Gordon Bennett (b.1955), Tracey Moffatt (b.1960), Fiona Hall (b.1953) Shaun Gladwell (b.1972), Christian Thompson (b.1978) and Simryn Gill (b.1959) who represented Australia at the Venice Biennale this year.
Highlights include Frederick McCubbin’s The Pioneer, 1904 (National Gallery of Victoria); four paintings from Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series, 1946 (National Gallery of Australia); Rover Thomas’ Cyclone Tracy, 1991 (National Gallery of Australia); Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Big Yam Dreaming, 1995 (National Gallery of Victoria) and Shaun Gladwell’s video Approach to Mundi Mundi, 2007 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, John Kaldor Family Collection). Judy Watson has been commissioned to create Fire and Water, a new sculpture for the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard.
Royal Academy of Arts Website