If you have any intention of visiting Armidale over the next couple of months, leave yourself time to drop into the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) to see the exhibition Gruner: Light and Landscape. Or if you are within reasonable reach of Armidale, this is worth a special trip.
According to the gallery’s own promo:
According to Norman Lindsay, Gruner was “perhaps the greatest painter of pure light the world has ever seen”.
Apart from the Gruner works in the Howard Hinton Collection that is the jewel in NERAM’s crown, there are other Gruner works belonging to NERAM, and several works from the Art Gallery of NSW, including the iconic Spring Frost, which is magnificently displayed at the entrance to the exhibition, which was curated and opened by Barry Pearce, Head of Australian Art at AGNSW.
As well as the Gruner paintings the exhibition contains several paintings by people who influenced Gruner – Julian Ashton, Hans Heysen, Norman Lindsay and George Lambert. And just off to the side of the exhibition you can see another of the great icons of Australian impressionist art, Tom Roberts’ Mosman’s Bay (1894), donated to Armidale Teachers’ College by Howard Hinton in 1933.
When I was a primary school lad at the Armidale Demonstration School in the 1950s, the Howard Hinton bequest was hanging on the walls of the nearby Teachers’ College, to which we went reasonably frequently because the “demonstration” part of the school’s name denoted that we were part of the practical experience of the trainee teachers. We looked at the wonderful paintings and I think we all assumed that every public building had paintings like that – we didn’t know how privileged we were. I might add that state education departments don’t build many buildings as grand as the old Armidale Teachers’ College anymore.
Apart from the Gruner Exhibition, virtually the whole of NERAM has been given over to professionally curated exhibitions for the period 20 October 2010 – 6 February 2011. There are four others:
- Inside and Out: Landscape in all its Forms. Various interpretations of landscape from the Chandler Coventry and NERAM Collections.
- Looking in the Mirror: New England Self-Portraits. Five local artists create their own self-portraits, using works from NERAM’s permanent collections as inspiration. Some very fine works here.
- Black and White: Treasures from the Howard Hinton Collection. Prints and drawings highlighting the beauty and impact of black and white media. Some wonderful items here – pencil drawings by Lloyd Rees, some pen and ink by George Lambert, even a pencil drawing by Rodin.
- Alarming Bras: From the Museum of Printing. Lingerie advertising blocks from the 1930s to 1960s and their original newspaper ads are displayed alongside objects loaned from the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
The NERAM webpage for the five exhibitions may be found here.