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Recent acquisition highlights

Acquisitions policy | Vision and policies

The National Gallery of Australia is continuously adding to the national collection, keeping abreast of emerging art as well as expanding existing collections.

The highlights featured in each issue of Artonview are displayed here.

image: John Young Castiglione's dream 1995–96, digital print, synthetic polymer paint and oil on canvas, 219.5 x 613.5 cm

In 2014, the National Gallery of Australia acquired one of the most important works to be painted by Australian artist John Young. Castiglione's dream is the grand summation piece of Young's critical series Double ground, which explores the complex geopolitical and psychological experiences of the people who make up the complex Chinese diaspora in Australia and globally. Read more


image: Ralph Hotere (1931–2013) Not titled 1963, paint on paper, 271 x 176 cm. Gift of Wallace and Janet Ambrose, 2014. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program. 100 Works for 100 Years

Hone Papita Raukura (Ralph) Hotere, one of New Zealand's most significant modern artists and born of Maori heritage, brought a refined lyricism to his abstract vernacular. An early example is the recent gift of a large-scale 1963 painting on paper, a work that communicates the artist's fundamental concern: the relationship between nature and the built environment. This seminal work in Hotere's distinctive style was painted in London, where he resided from 1961 to 1965, having received a fellowship—the last to be awarded by the Association of New Zealand Art Societies—to attend the Central School of Art and Design. Read more


image: Janina Green The bridge and the willow 2002–03, twelve Type-C photographs on fabric, each 24.8 x 24.8 cm. Gift of the artist, 2015

Melbourne photomedia artist Janina Green has for over three decades produced handcoloured photographs that explore the possibilities and implications of applying colour to photographic prints. The Gallery has recently acquired Green's series The bridge and the willow, which brings together two of the artist's handcoloured photographs, taken from her archive and rephotographed, and fragments from late nineteenth-century handcoloured Japanese photographs. The Japanese images come from an album of Meiji-period (1868–1912) handcoloured albumen prints in Green's personal collection (an album originally purchased by Mr and Mrs McLeod in Japan in 1889). Read more


image: Paddy Fordham Wainburranga (c 1932–2006, Rembarrnga people) Too many Captain Cooks 1988, natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark, 150 x 90 cm. Gift of Penelope McDonald, 2014. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

If ever there was an Arnhem Land bark painter who developed his own innovative and distinct style it was the late Paddy Fordham Wainburranga. His bold illustrations of the Rembarrnga ancestors on twenty-four of the two hundred hollow log coffins that make up the The Aboriginal Memorial 1988 stand in direct stylistic contrast to the others. His depictions of impressive Balangjarngalain spirit figures appear to be caught in a tortured state of metamorphosis; they are elongated figurative forms frozen in time, regurgitating, twitching and recoiling erratically, full of foreboding spiritual power and energy. Read more


image: Sarah Stone (1758–1844) Eastern rosella of New South Wales c 1790, pen, ink, watercolour, 35.9 x 26.6 cm

When the first bird specimens from Australia arrived in England, they ruffled the feathers of the scientific establishment. Sarah Stone's Eastern Rosella of New South Wales is a rare watercolour of one such bird. This superb rendering of Platycercus eximius (or Nonpareil parrot, as it was then named) conveys Stone's astute understanding of the scholarly purpose of natural history illustrations. In depicting the rosella in profile and of natural size, perched on a branch with wings partially raised, the viewer is able to discern the wingspan, as well as the idiosyncratic colouring of the species' cheek patches and scalloped feathers. Read more


image: Hilda Rix Nicholas (1884–1961) Une Australienne 1926, oil on canvas, 103 x 81 cm

In Une Australienne, Hilda Rix Nicholas deliberately chose to identify her subject as an Australian woman. The woman, dressed in the height of fashion, looks assertively out of the picture, with a powerful, if haughty, presence. Her elegance and physicality is conveyed through her pose, the turn of her head, the strain of her neck muscle and the hand gently resting on her thigh. Read more


image: Dorothy Napangardi c 1950–2013, Warlpiri people Mina Mina 2008 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 305 cm

Trevor Nickolls's practice began in the late 1960s, prefiguring what we now call the urban Aboriginal art movement, which began coming out of cities during the mid 1970s. And, although these were particularly difficult times for Aboriginal people in Australia, Nickolls endured to become one of the nation's most recognised and celebrated artists and an inspiration to some of Australia's leading Indigenous artists today. Read more


image: Dorothy Napangardi c 1950–2013, Warlpiri people Mina Mina 2008 synthetic polymer paint on canvas 152 x 305 cm

Born around 1950 in the remote central Australian landscape north-west of Alice Springs, Dorothy Napangardi spent her formative years learning about the rich cultural and spiritual realm of this desert region. Taught by her parents, Paddy Lewis Japanangka and Jeannie Lewis Napurrula, she gained an intimate knowledge of the abundant resources, both flora and fauna, and flourished with her family in what appeared to be a harsh and barren environment. Read more


image: James Turrell Shanta ii (blue) 1970 shallow cross-corner/cross-corner construction, fluorescent light

When we experience a work created by James Turrell, many of our assumptions about art do not apply. The artist harnesses various technologies that rely on visual perception rather than traditional techniques of sculpture, and his art has no narrative. Because the elements also have industrial or everyday uses, the works might appear neutral or manufactured, while the artist seems to remain at arm's length from their making. So why do we react to his installations with such intensity? Read more


image: Khadim Ali, Untitled 2014 drawing, watercolour and gouache, and gold leaf 54 x 70 cm

Written by tenth-century Persian poet Firdausi, the Shahnama or Book of kings is a poetic account of Iran's ancient history, from mythical creation to the more historical Arab conquest of Iran in the seventh century. The stories of the Shahnama—sung, read aloud and illustrated—comprised artist Khadim Ali's principal boyhood amusement, and he has used its legends in his art to present the plight of his people, the Hazara, who have been persecuted by the Taliban for decades. Read more


image: Dorrit Black, Nude c.1928 oil on canvas 54 x 38 cm

When Dorrit Black returned to Australia from London and France in late 1929, fresh from her studies at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art and André Lhote's Académie Montparnasse, she was referred to as 'a modern of moderns' in Adelaide's The Register News-Pictorial of 5 September 1929. She became a passionate evangelical to the modernist cause and established the Modern Art Centre in Sydney, which flourished from 1930 for three short but highly influential years. Along with her friend Grace Crowley, she was instrumental in the development of early Cubism in Australia. Read more


image: Dorrit Black Coastal trees c.1948 oil on canvas 45.6 x 55.6 cm

When Dorrit Black returned to Australia from London and France in late 1929, fresh from her studies at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art and André Lhote's Académie Montparnasse, she was referred to as 'a modern of moderns' in Adelaide's The Register News-Pictorial of 5 September 1929. She became a passionate evangelical to the modernist cause and established the Modern Art Centre in Sydney, which flourished from 1930 for three short but highly influential years. Along with her friend Grace Crowley, she was instrumental in the development of early Cubism in Australia. Read more

image: Dorrit Black Provençale farmhouse [The pink house] 1928 oil on canvas 36.8 x 47.6 cm

When Dorrit Black returned to Australia from London and France in late 1929, fresh from her studies at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art and André Lhote's Académie Montparnasse, she was referred to as 'a modern of moderns' in Adelaide's The Register News-Pictorial of 5 September 1929. She became a passionate evangelical to the modernist cause and established the Modern Art Centre in Sydney, which flourished from 1930 for three short but highly influential years. Along with her friend Grace Crowley, she was instrumental in the development of early Cubism in Australia. Read more


image: Joseph Merrett and William Nicholas, The Warrior Chieftains of New Zealand 1846 lithograph, watercolour 38.9 x 31.7 cm

The lithograph The warrior chieftains of New Zealand is a full-length portrait of Maori chieftain Hone Heke, his wife Hariata and the old chief Kawiti. The two men are in Maori clothing, while Hariata is in European attire. The young Heke holds a musket, while the older Kawiti holds a taiaha, a traditional staff weapon. The image is a sympathetic observation of a younger generation of Maori people in the mid nineteenth century who were adopting European conventions, including clothing and weapons. Read more


image: Tony Tuckson White with lines (charcoal) black border 1970-73 synthetic polymer paint 183 x 122 cm

White is an elemental colour in the work of Tony Tuckson. It is the colour of the elegant, whimsical line that journeys its way down a sheet of Masonite to create Tuckson's grand yet subtle masterpiece White sketch c 1973, a bequest from Lucy Swanton to the Gallery in 1982. It shapes his figures and interiors in the early Matisse‑like paintings of the 1950s and is the crux of White over red on blue c 1971, which remains one of the great pronouncements of Abstract Expressionism in Australian art. Read more


image: Joseph Lycett Eliza Point showing Captain Piper's naval villa and garden c.1820, painting in watercolour with gouache 40.6 x 54.7 cm

A miniature painter by trade but banknote forger by renown, Joseph Lycett's talents for artistry and imitation are both apparent in this view of early Sydney. The upward thrust of a sapling, an array of keenly observed she-oaks, cypress pines and acacias and the formative civic architecture of the fledgling settlement are rendered in a succession of delicate marks. However, it is perhaps the Palladian-style villa and the curious cruciform garden that adorns the hill behind it that most draw the viewer's eye. Read more


image: Daniel Walbidi Kirriwirri 2014, synthetic polymer paint on linen 180 x 150 cm

Kirriwirri 2014 is an energetic new work by Daniel Walbidi, an acclaimed artist whose vision as a painter has gone far beyond the scope of others in the Kimberley region. He has an uncanny ability to continually produce masterpieces, each different from the other yet progressive in style. They reflect the complex desert landscape, full of life, colour and intensity. Read more


image: Clarice Beckett Silent approach c.1924 oil on board, 48 x 58 cm

Clarice Beckett, like the visual arts equivalent of a haiku master, was able to distil the essence of her subjects with a minimum of means. Silent approach is a particularly fine example of the strength and delicacy of Beckett's approach in which no mark is wasted. While the painting exudes a pervasive stillness, the green vegetation in the foreground appears to have a vitality of its own, extending out to the shadowy figure. This fluid organic form is balanced by the vertical power pole (with echoes of the form receding into the distance), a classic Beckett subject indicating modernity. The interplay between structure and softness gives way on the left to the foggy atmosphere in which space itself is the dominant aspect. Read more


image: New Caledonia Mask 19th century, wood, paint 50.5 cm

This carved wooden mask is iconic of the traditional Kanak cultures of New Caledonia. Masks from these cultures all have a gleaming black patina and the greatest examples, from northern New Caledonia, sport a prominent hooked nose, as this one does. Its deeply sculpted features have a remarkable roundedness of form, giving the mask a distinctive welcoming personality offset by the grimace of the mouth. Read more


image: Tom Roberts Miss Minna Simpson 1886, oil on canvas 59.5 x 49.5 cm

Miss Minna Simpson is one of the most delightful and charming of Tom Roberts's portraits and one of his first major portraits to be painted after he returned to Australia in 1885 from his travels and studies in Europe. The subject, Minna Simpson, was the five-year-old niece of the artist's future wife, Lillie Williamson. Her fresh face is carefully rendered and framed by her dark hair and white bonnet. She looks directly at the viewer, holding firmly onto her white cat (which looks as if it would very much like to escape her clutches). There is a delightful dynamic in the contrast between the child's placid face and apparent stability, confident in her firm grasp of the cat, and the movement created by the animal, its facial scowl and paws reaching out toward the bowl of milk. The cat's action is mirrored to some extent by the two horse-and-rider figures galloping to the right of the table (Roberts clearly made the cardboard cutouts to hold Minna's attention while her portrait was painted). Read more


image: Édouard Vuillard A young girl seated in a chair in the studio 1909, pastel and charcoal 47.9 x 36.5 cm

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a group of young French artists formed a brotherhood that came to be known as the Nabis and included Edouard Vuillard and Ker-Xavier Roussel. They first came together as students in the late 1880s at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and then continued their studies at the Académie Julian. There, they received tuition by the avant-garde artist Paul Sérusier, who argued against an art simply copying nature. Vuillard and Roussel adopted the Japanese sense of space, sinuous lines and patterning that they so admired in ukiyo-e prints. They also rejected the idea of painting in situ using an easel, in the manner of the Impressionists. They were not interested in capturing the fleeting moments of landscapes and cityscapes as they considered the approach too superficial. Read more


image: Ker-Xavier Roussel Faun and nymphs in a landscape 1910, pastel and charcoal 26.6 x 35.9 cm

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a group of young French artists formed a brotherhood that came to be known as the Nabis and included Edouard Vuillard and Ker-Xavier Roussel. They first came together as students in the late 1880s at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris and then continued their studies at the Académie Julian. There, they received tuition by the avant-garde artist Paul Sérusier, who argued against an art simply copying nature. Vuillard and Roussel adopted the Japanese sense of space, sinuous lines and patterning that they so admired in ukiyo-e prints. They also rejected the idea of painting in situ using an easel, in the manner of the Impressionists. They were not interested in capturing the fleeting moments of landscapes and cityscapes as they considered the approach too superficial.. Read more


image: Albert Croker The Buffalo c.1959, natural earth pigments on wood 121 x 41.5 x 25.7 cm

This large carved sculpture of a Southeast Asian water buffalo is by Tiwi and Iwaidja artist Albert Croker (Gulabagu) and was created in the late 1950s. Read more