Hamilton Gallery / Public Galleries Association of Victoria
From Watercolours to Decorative Arts... decorative arts...From Watercolours to Decorative Arts... gifts, grants and bequests. The original bequest of 870 items has expanded to 8,500 items, making Hamilton Art Gallery one of the largest and most diverse regional gallery collections in Australia, spanning watercolours to decorative arts. Today ...
Bequests have been critical to Victoria’s regional galleries, with the wealth generated from farming and the discovery of gold in leading to the establishment and the continuous expansion from colonial times through to today.
Hamilton Art Gallery was established through a bequest from a local grazier, Herbert Buchanan Shaw. The Shaw Bequest consisted of paintings and prints, European silver and glass as well as English, Chinese and Japanese ceramics dating from the 18th century.
Ten years after it was established, Hamilton Art Gallery acquired a group of watercolours by 18th century painter Paul Sandby through a grant from the state government. An upper floor was added to the gallery to accommodate these works.
The collection has continued to grow through gifts, grants and bequests. The original bequest of 870 items has expanded to 8,500 items, making Hamilton Art Gallery one of the largest and most diverse regional gallery collections in Australia, spanning watercolours to decorative arts.
Today, the gallery is divided into six spaces – upstairs you will find the Sandby collection, Asian art, the Print room and Australian art, while on the ground floor you will discover the Shaw Gallery of decorative arts and the Ashworth Gallery for travelling exhibitions.
Featured here is a selection of works from the gallery’s collection – from watercolours by Paul Sandy to world class examples of decorative arts together with work by Australian artists dating from the 19th century to contemporary times. Watch a video to learn about the initial Shaw Bequest and experience the richness and diversity of Hamilton Art Gallery’s collection acquired through the generosity of benefactors and governments over the past fifty years.
The Fashion Detective... decorative arts... between science and fashionable aesthetics in this era. The case of the poisonous pigment sought to determine whether green arsenical pigments were present in the NGV’s collection of costume, accessories and decorative arts. In widespread use as colouring ...
The NGV’s fashion archive contains countless works about which we know little.
We don’t know who made them, who wore them, when or why, or indeed, what happened in them! For the curator, such works are endlessly intriguing; a form of ‘material evidence’ to examine and explicate.
In 2014, the NGV’s Fashion Detective exhibition took a selection of unattributed nineteenth century garments and accessories from the Australian fashion and textiles collection as the starting point for a series of investigations. Using forensics and fiction as alternate interpretative methods, the exhibition considered the detective work that curators and conservators do and where this can lead, as well as the role of storytelling in making visible the social life of clothes.
From fakes and forgeries to poisonous dyes, concealed clues and mysterious marks to missing persons, Fashion Detective was a series of ‘cases’ that each followed a different path of analysis.
Some relied on empirical study and science to reach conclusions, others were purposefully speculative - the inspired hypothesis of leading crime writers Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Sulari Gentill and Lili Wilkinson.
A playful exhibition about modes of enquiry, Fashion Detective considered the different ways in which we can decode objects in order to reveal what is normally concealed, and challenged the visitor to reappraise what they see and what they know.
The Leviny Sisters... decorative arts ...
Buda historic house and garden in Castlemaine is a remarkable archive of a family, occupied by two generations of the Leviny family over 118 years.
Ernest, who bought the house in 1863, and Bertha Leviny had 10 children, all of whom enjoyed a happy and privileged home life and received a well-rounded education, particularly in the arts. Five of the six Leviny daughters spent most of their lives at Buda, and the house and garden contains a rich legacy of their creative spirit.
Mary Florence, Beatrice Kate, Gertrude Olga Louise, Bertha Dorothy and Hilda Geraldine grew up at a time when women were being given opportunities for a higher education, and the Leviny girls were encouraged to do this. Their father’s wealth, resulting from his success in business on the Castlemaine goldfields, gave them choices in life, and they were under no particular pressure to marry or earn a living.
These five Leviny daughters remained single, giving them the freedom to pursue their creative interests in such things as painting, woodcarving, metalwork, needlework and photography. Some of their art and craft works were included in exhibitions, but it was mostly created for pleasure: to decorate and use in their home.
After Ernest’s death in 1905 the daughters commenced a redecoration of Buda in the Arts and Craft style. Victorian furnishings and fittings were replaced by simpler Federation-style details. Hand-painted friezes, decorative and useful items, soft furnishings, metalwork, embroideries, and beautifully carved furniture made by the sisters are still to be seen in and around the house at Buda.
It may have been considered an unusual lifestyle choice for young women in the late 1800s, but the Leviny sisters were part of a wave of change, resulting from early women’s rights activities at that time, which presented them with opportunities and choices. Their motivation, coupled with their financial independence, allowed them to pursue self-determined lifestyles. They continued to create works of art and craft well into the twentieth century with Dorothy, the most prolific artist of the sisters, still creating work in metals when she was in her seventies.
It was largely due to the foresight of last surviving sister, Hilda, that Buda was preserved as a house and garden museum when she sold the property to the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1970. Her sisters, Mary and Kate, left a broader civic legacy through their involvement in establishing the Castlemaine Art Gallery in 1913, and assisting with the development of the gallery’s fine collection of prints in the late 1920s.
Text adapted from the booklet Buda and the Leviny Family, Lauretta Zilles (2011).