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Art Gallery of NSW acquires four significant Australian paintings

Announced today, 1 July 2013

John Brack The new house 1953, John Brack The breakfast table 1958, Joy Hester Figure with scales 1957, Frank Hinder Tram kaleidoscope 1948

The Art Gallery of New South Wales announced today the acquisition of four significant Australian works of art. The Gallery has one of the finest collections of Australian art and these works are important additions.

The works acquired include two superb classic John Brack paintings, The new house 1953 and The breakfast table 1958; an exceptionally fine and poignant painting by Joy Hester Figure with scales 1957; and also a masterpiece of Australian modernism, Frank Hinder’s Tram kaleidoscope 1948, which will immediately be included in our next exhibition Sydney moderns.

Michael Brand, director of the Art Gallery of NSW, said: 'I am thrilled to make this announcement today. The Gallery is continuing to develop our collections through acquiring exceptional works of art. These four works represent this commitment. I am extremely grateful to the private individuals including our members, benefactors and philanthropists who have made this possible’.

Wayne Tunnicliffe, head of Australian art, said: 'There have been few works of this calibre on the market in recent years and the John Brack works are amongst the finest of his 1950s paintings still in private hands. All four acquisitions are now on display at the Gallery and Frank Hinder’s Tram kaleidoscope will be one of the highlights of our Sydney moderns exhibition which opens this Saturday 6 July’.

John Brack The new house 1953

Acquired through funds provided by the Gleeson O’Keefe Foundation
This is one of Brack’s quiet masterpieces from the early 1950s, depicting a newlywed couple who have just moved into their dream home. The square-jawed suited man and his apron-wearing spouse seem content and confident in their new sitting room, complete with wall-to-wall carpeting, standard lamp and Van Gogh print over the fire place. This painting embodies the promise of new aspirations and standards of living in the Menzies era and yet seems to ask whether contentment could be found in such safe and insular domestic life.

John Brack The breakfast table 1958

Acquired through the Art Gallery of NSW Foundation and the Australian Masterpiece Fund
The breakfast table depicts the traces of a family’s morning meal before the cutlery and plates have been cleared away. It captures a simple moment of domesticity, breaking with the pictorial and thematic conventions of the still-life genre. Brilliantly composed, the tilted table top and objects arranged across it are a precursor to Brack’s famous later works of marching pencils and playing cards on tables.

Joy Hester Figure with scales 1957

Funded by the John M Gillespie Bequest
Hester’s painting of a person weighing a chicken is poignant and dream-like. Typically it has considerable emotional and psychological intensity and expressive power as the figure looks at the weight of the heart-shaped bird. The subject is possibly autobiographical, a reference to a money-making scheme to raise and sell chickens which failed when the chicken bodies went off in warm weather. This fine colour work shows why Hester has been revaluated in recent years as a great mid-century artist, the equivalent of her more widely recognised male peers such as her husband Albert Tucker or friend Charles Blackman.

Frank Hinder Tram kaleidoscope 1948

Purchased with funds provided by the members of the Art Gallery Society of NSW
Tram kaleidoscope is one of Hinder’s largest major modernist paintings. This luminous work shows the influence of cubism and futurism as Hinder depicts a crowded tram moving down Sydney streets. The viewpoint is from within the tram with seated and standing passengers, and views to the passing city streets and cars outside. The Gallery owns a number of preparatory drawings and watercolours for this work from 1939, though the painting itself was not undertaken until after the Second World War.

Media contact

Claire Martin
Tel +61 2 9225 1734
Mob 0414 437 588
claire.martin@ag.nsw.gov.au