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"South Australia Illustrated: Colonial Painting in the Land of Promise" on view in Adelaide
Knud Bull, A view of Adelaide at sunset, c.1875, Adelaide. Oil on canvas, 105.3 x 151.9 cm. ANZ Collection. Photography: the photography department.

ADELAIDE.- The Art Gallery of South Australia brings the state’s remarkable history to life with South Australia Illustrated: colonial painting in the Land of Promise, through 5 August 2012.

This survey of the development of painting in South Australia from the commencement of colonisation in 1836, through to Federation in 1901 offers new insights and research into this often-overlooked aspect of Australia’s art history, as well as a rare opportunity to see the state’s past as never before.

“One of the most important exhibitions of South Australia’s historical colonial art ever mounted, South Australia Illustrated shows how, from Adelaide’s founding 175 years ago, a dynamic art scene took shape and made a distinctive contribution to Australian colonial art,” said Nick Mitzevich, Director, Art Gallery of South Australia.

“What remains is a rich record of the colony’s landscape, its original and new inhabitants, its growing confidence, changing identity, shifting moods and varied interests,” Mr Mitzevich said. Taking its name from the George French Angas folio that served as a major promotional publication for the colony from 1846, South Australia Illustrated draws over 200 works of art from the Art Gallery’s rich collection, as well as works generously lent by private, state and national collections.

From as early as 1836, watercolours by J.M Skipper provided insight into the first days of arrival, while surveyor-general William Light’s beautiful landscapes of the late 1830s are informed by his topographer’s eye. S.T. Gill’s lively street scenes record growth and success and G.F. Angas’s watercolours - intended as images for South Australia Illustrated published in London - encouraged further emigration. Aboriginal people are the main focus of Alexander Schramm’s oeuvre and they also appear interacting with settlers in important works by Charles Hill and in sophisticated portraits by John Crossland.

Towards the latter part of the nineteenth century, works by H.P. Gill, Louis Tannert and Alice and Helen Hambidge reflect a growing interest in figurative and genre painting, while the landscapes of young Hans Heysen suggest a burgeoning interest in national identity through landscape, which became the hallmark of much of Australia’s art in the early twentieth century.

Underpinning the exhibition is rigorous research by Emeritus Curator, Jane Hylton a specialist in South Australian and colonial art from a lifetime’s work in the field.

“During the 1840s South Australia boasted the liveliest art scene in Australia and in the later 19th century a rarely-acknowledged sophistication. This exhibition provides a marvellous opportunity for audiences to see just how extraordinary South Australia’s colonial art is,” Ms Hylton said.

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