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National Gallery of Australia receives major bequest

The National Gallery of Australia has announced that it is a beneficiary in perpetuity from the estate of Orde Poynton (1906-2001) AO, CMG, MA. MD, LLD (Hon). The Gallery's Department of International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books will receive annual financial support.

The Bequest was announced by NGA Council Chairman, Mr Harold Mitchell, and Director, Dr Brian Kennedy.

'This is a magnificent gesture, a marvellous legacy for all Australians, and we are very proud to be associated with The Poynton Bequest', said Mr Mitchell. 'In recent years, the Gallery has received considerable private support, but a bequest such as that of Dr Poynton is on an unprecedented scale.'

Dr Kennedy said that Orde Poynton had given $3 million to the Gallery for international prints, drawings and illustrated books, between 1986 and his death in February 2001:

'Now with this extraordinary bequest, the Gallery will be able to continue to develop what is already a world-class collection.

The Gallery owes a deep debt of gratitude to Dr Poynton who, last year, was delighted to be honoured as an officer of the Order of Australia.'

Jane Kinsman, the Gallery's Senior Curator of International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books said:

'Orde Poynton was a remarkable if somewhat mysterious man. I was truly delighted to have worked with such a wonderful benefactor for some 12 years.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime to have been able to build such an outstanding collection of international prints, drawings and illustrated books, and we look forward to making further important acquisitions on behalf of the Australian public.'

Orde Poynton was born in 1906 in England of a wealthy family. He studied at Cambridge University where he trained as a medical doctor, but was also a student of the economist, John Maynard Keynes. Dr Poynton travelled the world before taking up a post in the Federated Malay States. During the Second World War, he was captured at the fall of Singapore and became a prisoner of war in Changi Prison. After the war, he came to Australia, taking up a post in Adelaide at the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science. Following his retirement in 1961, he moved to Melbourne and became the consulting bibliographer to the University of Melbourne. He donated some 15,000 rare books and nearly 4,000 prints to the University.

Orde Poynton's generous benefaction since 1986, for the acquisition of international prints, drawings and illustrated books at the National Gallery of Australia, enabled the Gallery to buy rich collections of some 700 exemplary works by masters including William Morris, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, David Hockney, Frank Stella, and some of the Japanese woodblock prints seen recently in the exhibition Monet & Japan.

In 1992, in recognition of his support, the National Gallery of Australia dedicated a gallery space in perpetuity for the display of international works on paper and named it the Orde Poynton Gallery.

As a further tribute, in 1998 the Gallery commissioned the Australian artist, Brian Dunlop, to paint a portrait of Orde Poynton.

A publication Gift of Orde Poynton is to be published by the National Gallery of Australia.