Robert Raynor Gallery, Level G
This exhibition presents a selection of highlights from acquisitions made for the Prints and Drawings collection since 2002. Over 1000 works on paper have entered the collection during this period through purchase, donation or bequest, and this selection represents only a small percentage of the total number of works acquired. They have been selected to sample some of the most outstanding works to enter the collection, to provide insight into the extraordinary range of material acquired, and to reveal the collecting directions that have been pursued in recent years.
The National Gallery of Victoria’s Prints and Drawings collection encompasses both Australian and international works on paper, and spans some seven hundred years, from the 15th to the 21st centuries. The collection’s span is therefore extensive and it contains a great diversity of material, and this is reflected in the breadth of the collecting brief. In any given period, however, it is impossible for acquisitions to be made across all collection areas, and acquisition policies and desiderata provide a focus for collecting activity. In the period covered in this exhibition, the primary emphasis has been upon representing contemporary practice in both the Australian and international fields. Important recent Australian drawings and prints by artists including Aida Tomescu, Juan Davila, Brent Harris and Emily Floyd have entered the collection and will be included in the display. In the international collection, much of the acquisition funds have been given over to contemporary purchases, these including the strong body of recent British prints that were featured in the 2005 exhibition, Britprint. From this group of works, Grayson Perry’s monumental etching,Map of an Englishman, will be included in the exhibition where it will be displayed together with recently acquired contemporary prints by the American artists, Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois, as well as by the Leipzig-based artist, Christiane Baumgartner, who produces monumental woodcuts based on photographic images.
Despite this emphasis upon contemporary prints and drawings, important historical material has been added to the collection in both the Australian and international fields. One of the most significant additions to the colonial Australian collection of recent years has been the purchase of Joseph Lycett’s landmark album, Views of Australia (1824-25), which will be displayed in this exhibition for the first time. Significant 20th century additions include one of only two known impressions of Margaret Preston’s woodcut based on Aboriginal bark designs, The Hunt of 1940, drawings by John Brack, Charles Blackman and Joy Hester as well as a fascinating group of rarely-seen drawings by Vivienne Binns. In recent years the National Gallery of Victoria has been building a complete collection of Fred Williams prints that includes all states and variant proofs. This collection, that has been formed through the generosity of the artist’s widow, Lyn Williams, establishes the NGV printroom as the primary study collection in Australia for Williams’ printmaking. A small selection of Williams’ prints will be on display.
In the international field, the acquisition in 2002 of an Italian engraving of the 1470s, the enigmatic Primo Mobile, provides the NGV with the earliest print in its collection. There have been relatively few acquisitions in the Old Master print field in the past eight years, but those added have made a substantial difference to the collection. In addition to the Primo Mobile, the two brilliant Rembrandt etchings donated by Sir James Fairfax in 2003, The Angel appearing to the Shepherds and St Francis beneath a tree, praying significantly extend our Rembrandt holdings. In contrast to the pre-1900 European print collection, there has been a surprising number of drawings of the same period added to the collection, primarily by donation. One of the most exciting drawings to be acquired in recent years, and one that is to be unveiled in this exhibition, is the record drawing made in black and white chalk by Giandomenico Tiepolo after his father’s painting The Banquet of Cleopatra, before it left the studio in 1743. An important group of European botanical drawings of the 18th and early 19th centuries have been donated by Margaret Stones in 2004. Recent significant additions have also been made to our French symbolist print holdings with the purchase of Odilon Redon’s La Druidesse, Maurice Denis’s Amour suite of 13 lithographs, and Jeanne Jacquemin’s Coupe de suavité.
This exhibition will not only survey highlights from recent acquisitions made for the department, but will also pay tribute to our supporters, patrons and donors, whose assistance has been critical to the growth and augmentation of the collection.