Australian watercolours
Travelling exhibition itinerary

Introduction | Essay | Conservation | Selected works | Checklist

John Lewin The South Head Lyllie of New South Wales 1810 watercolour Collection of the National Gallery of Australia John Lewin The South Head Lyllie of New South Wales 1810 watercolour Collection of the National Gallery of Australia more detail

Moist is a rare glimpse into the National Gallery of Australia’s collection of Australian watercolours. It highlights the extraordinary breadth and depth of the collection and is the Gallery’s first collection-based exhibition of Australian watercolours.

Moist is not a history of watercolour painting in Australia. Instead it focuses on the liquid nature of watercolour, and how a diversity of artists have experimented with the medium to create unique representations of physical, emotional and atmospheric conditions, ranging from those that are highly figurative to images of a purely abstract emotional intensity.

The exhibition brings together 90 works from the colonial period to the present. Some are well-known treasures from the collection. Others will be exhibited for the first time. This is an eclectic group of works, with no restriction to style, size or motif. Each has its own story, yet there are common threads that draw them together. 

Painted more than a century apart, the extraordinary still life watercolours of Neville Cayley, Mary Cockburn Mercer and eX de Medici share an artist’s fascination for the minutiae of life. The intimate portraits of Thomas Griffiths Wainewright, Blamire Young, and Steve Cox are incredibly different in style, yet each reveals a sensitivity to the physical and emotional condition of the sitter. A reverence for their environment is manifest in the real and imaginary landscapes of Charles Conder, John Olsen and Rosslynd Piggott. So too, the contemplative abstract compositions of Gunter Christmann and Ian Friend leave us with a sublime and lingering memory.

Together these works provide another dimension to the art of watercolour painting in Australia and prove that the medium of watercolour has never lost its challenge for Australian artists.

Anne McDonald
Curator Australian Prints and Drawings


Moist is on at the National Gallery of Australia from the 27 August to the 4 December 2005




Moist is supported by