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Beginnings features works of art from the early years of Federation.

Australia’s birth as a nation was the signal for six consecutive weeks of ceremonies and celebrations. On 1 January 1901, half a million people watched processions winding through Sydney streets to Centennial Park where the Proclamation of Australian Unity was read and Ministers of the first Commonwealth Government took the oath of allegiance.

Four months later in Melbourne, the grand ceremony for the Opening of the First Commonwealth Parliament took place. Artists captured the pageantry and opulence of the occasion.

In general the art of this period reflects both a pride in Australian identity and an ongoing respect for the traditions inherited from Britain. It was a golden age for portraiture, and a time when decorative artists produced a distinctive blend of Australiana and Art Nouveau.

In the period leading up to the First World War, the art of portrait painting exhibited a degree of skill and sensitivity that has probably never been bettered in this country. Not only did artists depict statesmen, businessmen and the grande dames of society, there were many intimate portrayals of friends and relatives, self portraits and images of typical Aussies.

The early Federation period was a time of cultural curiosity and a growing sophistication.

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