Full Record

Our National Gallery Arrival of the First Pictures
Record no:
8 May 1896
Kept:Press clippings book 2, p. 2


When the committee of the Victoria Public Library were enlarged by an extension of their numbers and duties into a national gallery and a museum committee as well, they resolved to set about the work in real earnest of creating both a museum and a picture gallery in addition to the library.

What has been done in reference to the museum has been already told, but it was only at the close of last year that practical steps were taken to select some pictures for the gallery which it was proposed to establish.

During a recent visit to Melbourne Mr. Hackett, one of the members of the committee, was entrusted with the duty of examining some pictures which had been recommended to the committee, and reporting upon them. Mr. Hackett saw a number of gentlemen on the subject, and the result was that Mr. J. Lake, an amateur well known in the art world, was specially asked to help in the choice.

Mainly under his auspices nine pictures were selected and recommended to the committee for purchase. The committee accepted the selection, and Sir John Forrest, in the heartiest manner, fell in with their views, and placed the £1,000 which were required for the purchase at their disposal.

On his late visit to Melbourne Sir James Lee-Steere, chairman of the committee, inspected the pictures and warmly approved of the selection. Immediately after this inspection the pictures, which had been previously cleaned, were sent to Perth, where they arrived last week, and have since reached their home in the building appropriated to their use on what is now known as Museum Hill. There under the charge of Mr. Woodward they are being hung, and will be shortly on view to the public, probably in the course of next week. Though few, it is believed that the verdict will be that they are not as a whole unworthy to be made, at least, the beginning of a national collection. The limited finds at the disposal of the committee prevents any very costly works being procured, but at all events the committee seem to have got value for their money.

The most important picture, undoubtedly, is a portrait by Sir Thomas Laurence, P.R.A. It is very rich in colour, and is in excellent preservation. The portrait is a strikingly handsome one, and its method of treatment characteristic of the painter, who has endowed it with that voluptuous beauty he gave to so many of his portraits of women.

“Lake Lugano,” by R. P. Bonington, which like the Laurence, was secured from the collection of the late Dr. Fisher, is a perfect little gem, and is painted with exquisite clearness and brilliancy. It was one of the most popular pictures in the loan collection at the Centennial Exhibition.

A marine painting, “The Lizard Point,” by William Melby, R.A., of Copenhagen, attracted considerable notice in Melbourne, when it was first exhibited, some 14 or 15 years ago. The Argus wrote :—”The latest, if not the best, work from the pencil of Mr. Melby, the marine painter, . . . represents a rough sea with half a gale blowing on the iron-bound coast of Cornwall. A vessel is bowling away before the breeze, and a steamer is labouring against the waves in the murky distance. Some portions of the rugged cliffs are frowning in shadow, while, upon the green knoll, where sheep are pasturing, a gleam of sunshine lingers like a caress.  Below, the waters chafe and foam, and are broken up into mist and spray. . . . In all respects it is a fine picture.” The Australasian wrote :—”A very fine specimen of William Melby, painted this year, to order, at a liberal price. This grand picture, which displays the artist’s merits as a faithful translator of sea and sky, has Lizard Point for its subject. . . . Its realism is such that it requires not much imagination to feel the force of the wind, to hear the thunderous boom and swash of the breakers, and smell the salt breath of the ocean. . . . A valuable and beautiful acquisition.” This picture was purchased from Mr. William Mather, for whom it was painted.

One of the Melbourne dailies, writing of Arthur Helcke's foreshore picture of “Roquaine Bay, “Guernsey,” described it a remarkable for its luminous sky and fine quality of light and spaciousness. When it is hung, and on view to the public, it will probably prove one of the most popular pictures in the gallery, at it in now one of the best in the small collection which has already been made. It was brought out by the Earl of Buckinghamshire in the Grosvenor collection, and attracted considerable attention.

Two Australian artists are represented in the collection, the one being the late Louis Buvelôt, and the other Frederick M‘Gubbin, of the Melbourne National Painting School. Of the two pictures, the one being Buvelôt’s “Road to Dromana,” and the other McGubbin’s “Down on his Luck,” the Melbourne Herald says the former in painted as only the veteran Buvelôt, and nobody since him, could paint—absolute in local truth an unimpeachable in its fidelity to the atmosphere and colour of the Australian bush. Mr McGubbin’s picture is his celebrated “Down on his Luck,” probably the best picture he has ever painted, known to all now by the excellent reproductions that have been made of it, and certain to be popular—deservedly so—in a colony where the pioneers have sometimes been only too familiar with the melancholy condition of “doing a parish.”

The last of the oil paintings is a charmingly finished little picture, called “The Fruit Girl,” by J. H. S. Mann.

The remaining picture, and the only one of this instalment painted in water colours, is E. H. Fahey’s favourite view of Windsor. As a painter of still water, he has few rivals, and, perhaps, a better example of the excellent qualities of his work could hardly be obtained than this, which has frequently been copied on account of its great beauty.
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