When it purchased a dozen paintings by Sidney Nolan in 1953, The University of Western Australia was making a bold move–though for some it was a controversial one.
This was its first major purchase of contemporary Australian art, and a strong signal of what was to follow. Over the next two decades some fifty-six works by twenty-five artists were acquired with support from the Tom Collins Bequest–many for the first time by any public collection in Western Australia and in the case of Nolan, in more depth than anywhere else in the country.
The Bequest had been established by Samuel Furphy in memory of his father Joseph Furphy (who under the pen name Tom Collins wrote the turn of the century Australian novel Such is Life).
From the great 1954 ceramic bust, Mother and Child, by Arthur Boyd, to John Perceval’s Night Gull of 1957 or Fred Williams’ 1957 untitled (trees in a landscape, Mittagong) and through to one of the last paintings in the group, Robert Juniper’s untitled of 1974, the Tom Collins Bequest works are a great record of the period, and of perceptive engagement with the contemporary art of the time.
The acquisitions made with the Bequest were, particularly in its first decade, ambitious ones–but they have also been very influential. As this exhibition demonstrates many more works by artists included in the Tom Collins group were later acquired by donation and in further purchases. The legacy of the Bequest lies not only in the paintings themselves, but in their role as foundations for a much larger collection (and indeed for the development of the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery starting in the late 1980s). They serve to confirm the Gallery’s continuing focus on contemporary art, even as they also now exist as a powerful historical record.
To book your group visit or make any further enquiries please contact Ms Baige Smith.