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Beginnings The Land Cities & Suburbs Boom & Bust Patriotic Duty At Ease Encounters
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Boom & Bust reflects the economic contrasts of the 20th century - cycles of confidence, disillusion, decline and regeneration.

One of the chief catalysts for Federation was the Depression of the 1890s. Colonial governments and businesses had been borrowing heavily from British banks, financing the rapid growth of railways and an urban land boom. When the Depression put a sudden brake on the expansion of local wealth and industry, it was felt that only a unified Australia would be safe from such catastrophes.

The decades following Federation saw rapid development which led many to believe that they lived in a land of limitless possibilities. Confident in the future, Commonwealth and State governments again allowed their borrowings from British banks to run out of control. When the credit was turned off and the loans were called in, the ensuing Depression of the 1930s resulted in an unemployment rate of 30 per cent as businesses came crashing down.

The most memorable art created at this time was the social realist work of those painters who portrayed urban poverty and unhappiness in the starkest terms, without demeaning the dignity of the workers and the unemployed.

Within this section there are images that reflect Australia’s rural and urban industrial strength. George Lambert’s Weighing the fleece is a tribute to the wealth of the wool industry, while works by other artists dramatise mechanical and industrial sites by the use of unusual viewpoints and an emphasis on formal design.

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