Art Gallery of Ballarat
Built in 1884, the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery is Australia's oldest and largest regional gallery. The collection spans early colonial through to contemporary art, with important works-on-paper collections and collections of decorative arts, costume and sculpture. Works from the Heidelberg School, and prints dating from Captain Cook's voyages to the present day are included. The Gallery also houses the original Eureka Flag, an important gold fields collection and Lindsay Family works.
This collection is housed in The Art Gallery of Ballarat, which owns, manages and exhibits it to the public. Built in 1884, the Gallery is Australia's oldest and largest regional gallery, and was the first to be built outside a capital city in the overseas dominions of the British Empire. The original building at 40 Lydiard Street North, which is still the core of the Gallery, was opened by Alfred Deakin on Friday 13 June 1890, having taken three years to construct. In 1987 the City of Ballarat expanded the Gallery into the Bones Building, a group of shops adjoining the existing building in Lydiard Street. The latest expansion came as part of the 2001 Centenary of Federation, when the Gallery building was extended through to Camp Street as part of the Camp Street arts precinct, which also includes the University of Ballarat Arts Academy and Alfred Deakin Place. The collection aims to present the history of Australian Art from its beginnings to the present day, through paintings and works on paper with selections of sculpture and decorative arts, also looking closely at the work of regional artists and works depicting the growth of Ballarat. An important factor in the collection’s growth was the George Crouch Prize for contemporary art, which ran from 1927 till the 1970s. Established by Federal MP Richard Crouch, a native of Ballarat and son of an early pioneer, as an acquisitive art prize in memory of his father, the Crouch Prize was for many years one of the most prestigious art prizes in the country. The Crouch Prize ensured that the Gallery continued to build its collection of Australian art at a time when many other regional galleries were suffering from a lack of energy and investment. Crouch also established a prizes for watercolours in memory of his sister Minnie and gave the Gallery his remarkable collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books, the only Australian holding of such items outside the capital cities. Recent purchases and donations have expanded on the holdings of modern Australian sculpture and opened up a new vista of collecting - the art of the indigenous peoples of Australia's Top End. The collection includes one of the icons of Australian history: the original flag from the 1854 Eureka Stockade. This unique and beautiful relic, which had been held by the Gallery since 1895, underwent conservation works and was put on permanent display in 1973. Since then, serious attention has been given to the acquisition of works of art that help to interpret the story of Eureka.
The collection is one of Australia's earliest and most important regional art collections. The breadth of the collection provides an integrated overview of the entire span of Australia's art history. The collection is an important basis for Ballarat's cultural life and for a vigorous and exciting program of exhibitions.
Early acquisitions were paintings and the majority of these were works by British artists, with a small number of paintings from Continental Europe. This holding has been augmented substantially over time with occasional gifts and bequests and there was a final concerted attempt to acquire important British and French works in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s under the influence of Daryl Lindsay, the Creswick-born Director of the National Gallery of Victoria. This collection is 'solid and respectable' rather than exciting, but it does contain some rare and delightful things. Highlights include a choice collection of German romantic paintings of the 1830s which were formally in the collection of the Dukes of Cambridge, and some important works by artists such as Paul Signac, Phillip Connard, Lucien Simon, John Bratby and Henry Moore.
This is one of the most comprehensive collections of Australian paintings in the nation and includes works from convict artists of Van Diemen's Land to present day artists. Virtually every movement or trend that has come to the fore since the colonial era is represented.
Rare Books Collection
This collection is an unusually fine holding of Rare Books - thanks largely to the benefactions of the Honourable Richard Crouch and Sir Allan and Lady Currie. The Crouch donations include medieval manuscripts and early printed books while the Currie collection focuses on volumes which illustrate the European exploration and settlement of the South Pacific region - including Australia.
Rare Books from the Ercildoune Library
In 1949, Lady Currie of Ercildoune homestead (near Ballarat) donated a large group of paintings, works on paper, decorative arts and other items to the collection in memory of her late husband, Sir Alan Currie. Included in this donation was a group of important, and rare, 18th and 19th century publications detailing the sea voyages of 'discovery' by Europeans and early expeditions on land and sea after the settlement of Australia. With financial assistance from the Gordon Darling Foundation, these items have recently has been catalogued, and their plates digitised for online access.