Monash University Publishing | Contacts Page
Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge




Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary was shown in Adelaide and London during 1962 and 1963. Prime Minister Robert Menzies and the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board selected the official survey exhibition. Intended as an official showcase of an independent and evermore prosperous Australia, it simultaneously maintained imperial ties to Britain at a time when interest in the new commonwealth was diminishing. By perpetuating an outdated tradition of colonial exhibitions in London, the Tate show rendered itself obsolete. At the same time, it raised questions concerning who should have the right to decide the external representation of the Australian nation through art exhibitions.


During the late 1950s and early 1960s Australian art and culture enjoyed unprecedented popularity in London. Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Russell Drysdale, among other Australian artists, held highly successful solo exhibitions and lived there for varying amounts of time. Musicians, writers, novelists and actors such as Peter Porter, Peter Finch, Charles Obsorne and Leo McKern also contributed to this high-profile cultural expatriate Australian community (Alomes 1999). Their successes stimulated a number of major exhibitions featuring Australian art exhibited in London and Europe between 1953 and 1965. These included the groundbreaking Recent Australian Painting, held at London’s Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1961, Australian Painting and Sculpture in Europe Today and Australian Painting Today, both presented in Europe between 1963 and 1965 and the exhibition which forms the focus of this chapter: Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary (hereafter referred to as Australian Painting or ‘the Tate show’). Australian Painting was first presented in 1962 at the Adelaide Festival under the title Antipodean Vision. A revised version of this exhibition was presented at the Tate Gallery in London in January 1963, after four years of fraught negotiation. It was also displayed in Vancouver and Ottawa en route back to Australia in 1963. This group of major survey shows played a significant role in defining a national art canon that projected an image of Australia onto the international stage, just as the Australian displays within the international colonial exhibitions had done during the nineteenth century.

The Tate show provides a unique insight into the image of nation that prime minister Robert Menzies, acting through the Australian Government organisation, the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board (CAAB) (Figure 1), wished to promote for external consumption, particularly in Britain. Menzies was keen to use the show as an opportunity to attract British migrants to Australia. He remained attached to the Commonwealth concept and firmly believed that the traditional links between Australia and the United Kingdom should be maintained and strengthened (Ward 2001). Cultural events such as the Tate show helped to maintain social, political and economic links between the two countries, as did the Australian participation in world exhibitions discussed in Carolyn Barnes and Simon Jackson’s (2008) chapter. Contemporary Australian artists did campaign to have their work shown in Europe and America but the official focus remained upon cultural ‘trade’ between Commonwealth countries. As Daniel Thomas has said, Commonwealth art galleries were ‘in the family’ which was why the Tate show toured Canada on the way back to Australia.1 In contrast, American exhibitions, notably the Mertz collection put together by Kym Bonython and donated to the University of Austin Texas in 1964, were primarily funded through private sponsorship and did not receive government support. The university sold the Mertz collection in 2000 because the paintings were mouldering in a basement due to lack of interest (Christie’s 2000). This is graphic evidence that the enthusiasm for Australian art in London at the turn of the 1960s was partly a consequence of the ‘cultural links’ between Australia and the United Kingdom.


Figure 1: The Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board c. 1960. From left to right. Front row: Russell Drysdale, Valda Leehy (secretary), William Ashton. Back row: Daryl Lindsay, Douglas Pratt, William Dargie, Robert Campbell. Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board Meeting, Sydney, 13 May 1960.
(Courtesy of National Archives of Australia [A463 1960/4313])

Despite these strong links and the receptiveness for Australian art in London, however, Menzies’ vision for the Tate show was perceived by many as flawed from the outset. The CAAB’s decisions not to include Aboriginal art, limit the medium of the artworks to oil paintings, favour paintings with Australian narrative subject matter, and to include a sizeable section of colonial and impressionist works alongside contemporary ones were all part of Menzies’s attempt to present the British public with a ‘positive’ image of nation. This caused massive disputes between the CAAB, the Tate Gallery authorities, the Australian Contemporary Art Society (CAS), and the progressive state gallery directors Eric Westbrook and Hal Missingham. At issue was the question: Who should have the right to decide the external representation of the Australian nation through art exhibitions?

Ultimately, it will be argued, the Tate show at best was only a partial success. Intended as an official showcase of an independent and evermore prosperous Australia, it simultaneously maintained imperial ties to Britain at a time when interest in the concept of a ‘New Commonwealth’ was diminishing. This ambivalence is reflected in the lukewarm critical reception of the exhibition in Britain. British critics’ previous enthusiasm for the work of the so-called ‘Australian School’ was by the early 1960s being eclipsed by the increasing dominance of American painting. By perpetuating an outdated tradition of colonial exhibitions in London, the Tate show rendered itself obsolete.


British interest in Australian art had increased after the Second World War. This was prompted in part by the ‘discovery’ of Nolan by art historian and educator Kenneth Clark during his trip to Australia as Felton Bequest advisor in 1949. This encounter led to London shows by Drysdale and Nolan (Clark 1977, 150–151) which promoted considerable interest amongst some British critics and directors.

Another factor was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. Menzies and others hoped that this would herald the ‘new Elizabethan age’ in which ‘the New Commonwealth’ – a community of ‘free and equal nations’ would become a force within international politics. A cultural interest in this idea helped generate interest in Australian art. Twelve Australian Artists (New Burlington House 1953), the first major exhibition of Australian painting held in London after the war, formed part of the program for the Queen and Commonwealth celebrations of 1953.

Twelve Australian Artists was a distinctive modernist exhibition including Russell Drysdale’s Walls of China (1945), The Drover’s Wife (1945), William Dobell’s Billy Boy (1943) and Nolan’s Ned Kelly series (1946–47). Drysdale’s paintings responded to the work of British ‘surrealist’ painters Paul Nash and Henry Moore. Nolan’s famous series was also inspired by an interest in surrealist ideas. His ‘faux naïf-style’ and rapidly painted renderings of a historical legend reveal an interest in the unmediated subconscious, memory, and an interest in children’s art. Paintings by modernist artists Donald Friend, Jean Bellette, Justin O’Brien, Fred Williams, Constance Stokes, Arthur Boyd, Frank Hinder and Ralph Balson were also represented.

Tate Gallery Director Sir John Rothenstein was impressed by Twelve Australian Artists, leading the Australian High Commissioner, Thomas White, to write to Kenneth Clark about the director’s ‘interest in having a large exhibition at the Tate Gallery’.2 Rothenstein was aware of the relevance of the New Commonwealth ideal in relation to Australian art exhibitions and organised Canadian Painting 1939–1963 (Tate Gallery 1963) in addition to Australian Painting.3 But Rothenstein’s interest in Australian painting was fuelled by a genuine personal enthusiasm for Australian contemporary art that reached beyond political considerations. After all, he had written a biography of the Australian artist Charles Conder and was friends with painters such as Roy de Maistre and Sidney Nolan. He also kept in close contact with the three major British patrons of Australian art: Clark, Tate Trustee Colin Anderson and Whitechapel Gallery Director Bryan Robertson. Under Rothenstein’s directorship, the Tate purchased a considerable number of works by Nolan, Brett Whiteley, Godfrey Miller and others.4


The desire to hold an Australian art exhibition at the Tate had interested Rothenstein since 1949 when he had first met with leading Australian art historian Bernard Smith to discuss the idea.5 Two years later, Nolan met with Rothenstein ‘to discuss your previous suggestion of an Australian exhibition here’. In 1957, the CAS also tried to secure an Australian art exhibition at the Tate, but after much discussion the Tate Trustees rejected their proposal. They decided that while they would welcome ‘a first-class exhibition of Australian painting sponsored by the Australian Commonwealth government,’ they did not believe that the Contemporary Art Society of Australia ‘commanded sufficient authority and resources to organize such an exhibition.’6 Sadly, the Tate perceived the CAS as an amateur organisation despite the crucial role it had played in promoting Australian modernist art. In 1959, Mrs Hannah Fairfax, wife of Warwick Fairfax, the proprietor of the Sydney Morning Herald, put forward a proposal for ‘a retrospective exhibition of Australian painting to be organized by the Society [the National Gallery Society of New South Wales] and to include the best examples selected from all states’.7 Unfortunately, the whole exhibition proposal was stopped when Vincent Fairfax informed the Tate Trustees that the Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) and the Art Gallery of South Australia would not loan pictures for this show.8

Australian contemporary artists confronted a profoundly frustrating situation. They recognised that an official, national history presented at the Tate Gallery would help to define the canon of Australian painters and would consequently have a marked effect upon their careers. However, without financial backing or patronage from organisations or individuals with an established reputation, the export of Australian contemporary art overseas was almost impossible to achieve. This situation was exacerbated by the lack of support they received from the Australian Government organisation responsible for selecting artworks for official exhibitions sent overseas, the CAAB (Scott 2003; Scott 2004).

Finally, in 1959, it seemed that the opportunity for contemporary artists to be showcased in an official major overseas exhibition could become a reality. Rothenstein resolved to talk to Felton Bequest advisor John McDonnell and newly appointed National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Director, Eric Westbrook, about the project. Following this he secured official CAAB sponsorship and Tate Trustee support for ‘the ever fascinating but alas ever distant thing an Australian exhibition at the Tate Gallery’.9


From the outset, disputes between the Tate Gallery authorities and the CAAB concerning the nature of an Australian art exhibition at the Tate were ferocious. This was because their respective reasons for supporting an exhibition of Australian art were fundamentally different. The Tate wished to secure a contemporary art show. In a meeting with the prime minister, Tate Trustee Colin Anderson expressed his hope that Australian Painting ‘would be able to show that the fever was still continuing past Nolan and Drysdale’. Rothenstein also agreed to the idea of ‘a flourish of younger contemporary painters’.10 In contrast, Menzies and the CAAB wanted an exhibition that would showcase Australia’s development, presenting it as the perfect destination for potential British migrants. Menzies wrote the CAAB a letter that declares: ‘[I]t is about time we were known for our cultural achievements as well as our sporting prowess. We are looking for British immigrants. They should know that the things of the spirit mean something to Australia as well as material things.’11

Unbeknown to the Tate authorities, the Australian Government’s perception of the Australian art exhibition as an opportunity to showcase the nation caused the Tate’s letter requesting a contemporary exhibition of Australian art to be transferred from the progressive State Gallery Director’s Council to the government-run CAAB.12 The CAAB (over which Menzies had power of veto) assumed sole responsibility for the selection of works for Australian Painting even though they continued to reassure Rothenstein that the State Gallery Directors were still actively involved with the selection process.

In reality, the CAAB actively excluded Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) Director Hal Missingham, and NGV Director Eric Westbrook from the selection process because CAAB Chairman William Ashton feared that if they were involved:

the sort of art that people would be seeing would most likely be the extreme modernistic type … It seemed to me the Commonwealth should be trying to prevent this sort of art leaving Australia and should be arranging for a Commonwealth exhibition to go abroad.13

The Tate authorities responded to the CAAB’s conservative draft proposals of selected works for the exhibition by trying to broaden Menzies’s appreciation of contemporary art. This was no easy task. Anderson observed that the prime minister is ‘taking a personal interest in the whole thing [the Tate show] … I only wish he had a more extensive appreciation of the art of our own time!’14 In an attempt to convince Menzies of the value of contemporary art, Anderson sent him a catalogue of a recent exhibition of abstract Yugoslav painting that had been shown at the Tate, but to no avail (Tate Gallery 1961).

These interventions by Anderson and Rothenstein only aggravated relations with the CAAB who perceived the Tate authorities involvement as a slight upon their professional expertise and authority. Ashton believed that Rothenstein should ‘have some knowledge of the status of the Board as practicing artists and should have enough common sense to realize that the Prime Minister had some knowledge of art’.15

By July 1960, the CAAB was contemplating withdrawing Australian Painting from the Tate Gallery altogether. Members even went so far as to discuss the Commonwealth Institute and the Edinburgh Festival as alternative venues for the show.16

A meeting between the Australia House Secretary, WR Cumming, and Anderson ‘cleared the air somewhat’ but Tate Gallery authorities remained suspicious of the CAAB’s selection. Rothenstein continued to consult Bryan Robertson of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, Nolan and others, concerning the CAAB’s draft list of works for Australian Painting.17


The frustration experienced by Australia’s contemporary artists was a primary reason why Bryan Robertson decided to organise Recent Australian Painting at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Robertson recalled that in 1960, through discussions with Nolan and Boyd, he:

learned of an impending official show of Australian painting planned and selected by what was then a very conservative arts advisory board … There was the probability that a lot of good things, including the work of many painters, would be excluded from the show at a time when abstract painting or even a degree of fantasy were equated on an Australian official level with degeneracy, or at least with valueless bohemian self indulgence. Officials wished to present a rosy vision of Australia to the outside world, not carcasses in deserts, or surrealism or abstraction (Robertson 1995, 8–14).

Robertson corresponded with many major Australian artists who widely supported his exhibition. Russell Drysdale, for example, believed that Robertson’s idea of ‘giving chaps like Dickerson, Passmore, etc. a showing is very good and generous’.18 Robertson also worked in close contact with the AGNSW through its Director Hal Missingham and curator Tony Tuckson. In June 1961 Recent Australian Painting opened to acclaim. It featured over 100 artworks and over 50 artists including, Godfrey Miller, Jeffrey Smart, Elwyn Lynn and Margo Lewers and the 21-year-old Brett Whiteley. Robertson has been much criticised as an imperialist, opportunist director who condemned Australian artists to be treated as ‘exotic novelties’ (Smith 1961; Catalano 1981, 87–99; Lynn 1961b, 337–39; Baume 1986; Heathcote 1995).19 Yet Robertson did enter into negotiations with Australian artists and curators and was driven by a desire to present a balanced, comprehensive survey featuring lesser known artists. Many British critics were enthusiastic about the exhibition and reviewers welcomed it as showing talent (notably that of Whiteley), in the ‘post-Nolan era’.20

The CAAB on the other hand, failed to recognise the importance of the exhibition. The announcement of ‘the largest show of Australian contemporary art ever seen in London’ upstaged the media release for the Tate show that came out the same week.21 Their fears were allayed by WR Cumming of Australia House who reassured the CAAB that Robertson was ‘a nice chap who looked upon the exhibition of Australian work as a sort of pilot project for the Tate exhibition’.22 Ashton at the CAAB condemned the show from the outset, bringing a letter written to him from James McGregor to the attention of the Board: ‘I have seen the Whitechapel show. It’s colourful. But nearly all abstract apart from Drysdale and Perceval. I don’t like it at all. They’re all trying to be so damned modern. The Preface and the Introduction make me vaguely sick.’23


Despite the efforts of the Tate Gallery authorities to encourage a more innovative contemporary selection, and the positive response to the contemporary focus of the Whitechapel’s Recent Australian Painting, the narrative of progress theme remained central to all of the countless draft proposals of work to be included in the Tate show. The show was to present a pictorial narrative from the time of settlement to the present day. Board members agreed that given the choice between two works by the same artist ‘the one with the characteristically Australian flavour should be selected’. ‘Literal paintings’ such as Down on his luck (1889), A break away! (1891), Shearing the rams (1888–90), and Bailed up (1895–1926) were the focal point of the exhibition.24 The exhibition catalogue also reinforced the patriotic, nationalist and promotional agenda of Australian Painting. Clive Turnbull’s colonial section described how the gold rush ‘raised Melbourne from pastoral hamlet to the beginnings of the world city which it has become’ (Turnbull 1962, 4). Glossing over the massacres of Indigenous people and the horrific aspects of the colonial penal system, Turnbull claimed that the colonial period ‘seems a kind of Arcadian period, despite its darker underside … It is pleasant to think that Glover was so successful in making his accommodation to his new world, in recreating the things he loved, and that he lived out his days in peaceful fulfillment’. The inclusion of John Glover’s A view of the artist’s house and garden (1835), an idyllic representation of the successful colonialist’s flourishing settlement, reinforced this impression of an Arcadian utopia.

Elizabeth Young, the wife of CAAB member Robert Campbell, maintained the celebratory story of white settlement progress within her introduction to the impressionist section of the catalogue. She describes how from the 1880s onwards, ‘the fetters were well cast aside and a young, vigorous people, made strong by endurance, was fast becoming conscious of itself, its powers, its rights, its native land’. This impressionist generation of Australian artists, claims Young, could produce art that was superior to that of ‘the mother country’. She congratulates Tom Roberts, painter of A break away!, Shearing the rams and other exhibition works, upon producing ‘realist art’ that, unlike the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, ‘was never static’. Young evokes the summer camps of the plein-air artists in nostalgic detail:

At night the billy was boiled, chops and potatoes cooked in the embers; pipes came out and talk, raking the universe but coming always back to art, eddied with the tang of gum leaves, round the camp fire. There was laughter and music too – Tom Roberts would get out his tin whistle, McCubbin would raise a mellow voice – and in all the gay camaraderies there was always an exciting tomorrow, another day to absorb, probe and paint the uncharted Australian landscape (Young 1962).

Young’s account reinforces a nostalgic myth of the Australian bushman. In actual fact, impressionist painters Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder and Frederick McCubbin were all city dwellers who took weekend trips to camp in the bush at the edges of an expanding suburbia (Astbury 1985).

Daniel Thomas’s contemporary section uses the appeal of Bernard Smith’s Antipodean Manifesto ‘for figurative art and Australian subject matter’ as the centre point for discussion (Smith 1959). In paintings such as John Olsen’s Journey into the you beaut country (1961), Thomas sees a reconciliation of the dichotomy proposed by Smith between contemporary ‘international’ abstract styles and an art that responds to a uniquely Australian environment. Thomas points out that Olsen’s ‘recent pictures are as Australianist in intention as anything the Antipodean Manifesto could wish for. They undoubtedly express his experience of his time and place – as a total environment’. Thomas’s introduction celebrates the achievements of a male, postwar generation of Australian artists including Drysdale, Nolan and Olsen. They are cast as heroic modernist pioneers whose voyages of exploration involves both an internal mental process that extends art practice to its outer reaches, and an external, physical ‘penetration’ of the Australian environment (Thomas 1962).

Australian Painting was first and foremost a celebratory narrative of progress. This patriotic agenda, with its accompanying emphasis upon a figurative art practice, was the major source of conflict between the CAAB and the Tate Gallery authorities. Disputes were not limited to these two organisations. The Australian Painting proposal also generated enormous controversy amongst the art community within Australia.


The Australian art community viewed Australian Painting as constructing a definitive historical canon of Australian painters for an international audience. Apart from Kym Bonython’s Australian Painting and Sculpture (Bonython 1960), no major Australian art history surveys had been published since the 1940s and Robertson’s Whitechapel show focused upon contemporary art. Consequently, this ‘definitive’ Tate exhibition proved to be divisive even amongst the CAAB. The status of Aboriginal art and the inter-war generation of Australian painters known as the ‘link artists’ proved to be particularly controversial.

The question of whether Aboriginal art should be included or excluded from Australian Painting reflected wider contemporary debates concerning the status of so-called ‘primitive’ art. Aboriginal Art (1960), curated by Tony Tuckson, had already toured Australia to great acclaim (Lynn 1961a). It presented works within a high modernist context, without any interpretative or background material. Howard Morphy has recently criticised Tuckson’s approach in this exhibition, arguing that it supported ‘formal appearance unmediated by cultural knowledge’ (Morphy 2001). Given this, the ultimate exclusion of Aboriginal art from the Tate Gallery cannot simply be dismissed as ‘racist’. Indeed, when CAAB member Daryl Lindsay proposed that Tuckson’s exhibition should be sent to the United Kingdom, Tate Trustee Colin Anderson readily admitted that this was a ‘splendid Aboriginal show’.25 Finally, though, Anderson decided that ‘it is not suitable for the Tate in my view’.26 The fine art traditions upheld by the Tate were still seen to be incompatible with something that was ‘too weighted with anthropological undertones to marry satisfactorily with a show of works otherwise in the classical mode of European painting’.27 They decided not to follow the initiatives taken within previous Australian art survey shows and British exhibitions. 40,000 Years of Modern Art (1948), for example, held at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA 1948), had presented the British public with a dialogue between fine art and ‘primitive’ work including Walpiri art some 14 years before the Tate show.

Some members of the CAAB also feared that the inclusion of Aboriginal art in Australian Painting, would present an inappropriate image of nation. A letter from the CAAB secretary to Daryl Lindsay advised:

Your suggestion about financing the Aboriginal art exhibition to go abroad is certainly worth thinking about – the only reservation I have is that I hope that in London the exhibition won’t lead people to believe that we are all ‘cannibals’ – which is a rather prevalent impression.28

Although Aboriginal art was not included, Aboriginal culture was mediated through the work of settler artists included in the exhibition. These Indigenous references became a signifier of Australian culture and identity. They acted to authenticate a ‘unique’ national art form. Paintings such as Boyd’s Shearers playing for a bride (1957), Lawrence Daws’ Mining town blacks (1955), Drysdale’s Mullaloonah tank (1953), Snake Bay at night (1959), Boy with lizard (1955) and Desert landscape (1952), all present Aboriginal places and/or people. Olsen’s Journey into the you beaut country (1961) also drew upon a connection between ‘primitivism’ and the Australian landscape (MacLean 1998).

While the Aboriginal art issue was controversial, it was the the so-called link painters that caused the most bitter disputes amongst CAAB members.29 This generation of painters had occupied positions of power and influence during the 1930s and 1940s. Most had been involved with the Australian Art Academy, and were included in the 1923 exhibition of Australian painting in London. William Moore’s (1934) The Story of Australian Art and Sydney Ure Smith’s (1940) Australian Art Today also celebrated their achievements. The decision to limit Australian Painting to oil paintings led to the exclusion of etchers and water colour painters, mediums that were commonly used by the link group. Following the first showing of Australian Painting, works by Rupert Bunny, Emmanuel Phillips Fox, Hans Heysen, George Lambert, John Longstaff, Max Meldrum, Hugh Ramsay, Lionel Lindsay, William Ashton (then currently Chairman of the CAAB), Douglas Dundas and others, were removed.

Only a decade before, Menzies’s (1951) foreword to the Jubilee Exhibition of Australian Art of 1951 declared the inter-war artists to be ‘amongst Australia’s greatest’. In contrast, Laurie Thomas’s 1960 introduction to Australian Painting and Sculpture, described the period between the wars as ‘a creative drought’ (Bonython 1960, 3).

The dismissal of the inter-war artists from the Australian art canon at the beginning of the 1960s was a political reaction against the previous generation’s influence during the 1920s and 1930s. The victory of the Angry Penguins circle in securing leadership of the CAS, the Antipodean exhibition of 1959, and the Reeds’ influence within the Melbourne art scene, all contributed towards the privileged position held by Melbourne’s avant-garde of the 1940s within Australian art historical accounts (Haese 1981). Whilst there is no doubt that Tucker, Nolan and Boyd were artists of great distinction, other artists who were neither part of the radical modernist circle nor reactionary traditionalists, tended to be overshadowed by them (Pigot 2001, 10; Smith 2002, 14).


The preliminary presentation of the Tate show, presented under the title Antipodean Vision, took place in the new wing of the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of the Second Adelaide Festival during March 1962 (Figure 2). With much pomp and ceremony Sir Lloyd Dumas gave his opening speech, declaring that ‘If it had not been for the personal interest of the Prime Minister in getting this collection together for the Tate Gallery, it would not have been got together … choosing the pictures for the exhibition had been a colossal task’.30 To make matters worse, Menzies announced in his speech that he ‘pleaded guilty that he had a little to do with arranging the collection’ (Figure 3). When asked how he had found Colin Anderson, Menzies explained ‘he is a great exponent of the very very modern. I am a reactionary and a traditionalist. We were able to meet at opposite poles and gradually make an accommodation’.31


Figure 2. View of Antipodean Vision, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 1962.
(Courtesy of Bulletin of the National Gallery of South Australia, vol. 23, no 4, April, 1962)


Figure 3. The Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Hon. RG Menzies opening the Festival Exhibitions in the New Wing of the Art Gallery of South Australia, 17 March 1962.
(Courtesy of Bulletin of the National Gallery of South Australia, vol. 23, no. 4, April 1962)

Modernist artist and President of the CAS, Albert Tucker, took full advantage of this blunder, using it within a CAS campaign he had instigated to push for CAAB reform. In a series of articles published in the Herald during late March and early April 1962, he accused the Board of ‘a shocking deception’. Tucker described the CAAB as an ‘anachronistic body, composed of men who have never left the nineteenth century and beholden to the amateur artistic prejudices of the Prime Minister’. Tucker also pointed out that the focus of the CAAB’s selection for the Tate show on colonial and impressionist paintings ‘misrepresented Australian painters’.32 This went against Menzies’s press statement released on the 14 April 1961 in which he compromised with the Tate authorities’ push for a contemporary art exhibition by declaring that within Australian Painting ‘the main emphasis would be on contemporary Australian paintings (including) young Australian artists whose works are completely unknown outside Australia’.33

AGNSW Director Hal Missingham signalled his support for Tucker’s campaign against the CAAB by declaring that he did not wish to be personally acknowledged for lending the 35 works to Australian Painting.34 NGV Director Eric Westbrook also supported Tucker’s campaign. His critique of the CAAB’s selection for Australian Painting noted only 13 contemporary painters were younger than 42 and that only one artist was a ‘new Australian’. He added that ‘it is a matter of the greatest importance to Australia that the image we project overseas is of the freedom and creativeness of our artists – and therefore of our way of life – should be true and striking one’.35 This reinforced Tucker’s view that Australian art presented abroad was ‘no longer simply a question of art, but also of diplomacy, for this is the way the image and status of Australia is established overseas’.36

William Ashton responded to these attacks by declaring that he found it ‘difficult to believe that Mr Tucker is really serious when he suggests that the organization and selection of such exhibitions are more in the fields of diplomacy and foreign affairs. The Board’s functions are in the field of art!’.37 These statements expose the CAAB’s naivety concerning the role of cultural enterprises within international politics.

After much dispute, the CAAB met with the State Gallery Directors and agreed that in future, the directors would be consulted concerning ‘exhibitions which might be seen as being national in character’.38 This meeting marked the end of the CAAB’s monopoly over selection processes and opened up discussion concerning international exhibition policy.

The removal of the link section and the revision of the modern section from Australian Painting before its viewing in London also signalled the success of the CAS’s campaign against the board.39 The revised modern section increased the representation of William Dobell, Albert Tucker, Ronald Wakelin, Brett Whiteley, Jean Bellette, Ray Crooke, Donald Friend, Leonard Hessing, Justin O’Brien, Stanislaus Rapotec and Fred Williams. The addition of Rapotec, Leonard Hessing and Sali Herman defused the CAS of South Australia’s complaint that ‘the exhibition would not give a reasonable representation of Australian contemporary art, especially as it omits many migrant painters of great importance’, an issue that Eric Westbrook had also voiced.40

Despite revisions, the final selection for the Tate show reflected the more conservative aspects of the CAAB’s aesthetic policies and more broadly, of Australian art and society during the 1950s. It gave ‘new Australians’ and women only scant attention and the view that Aboriginal art was of anthropological rather than of fine art interest was, finally, upheld. The final selection was an awkward compromise between the promotional narrative agenda of the Australian Government and the presentation of Australian contemporary arts practice desired by the Tate and the CAS.


The debates surrounding Antipodean Vision (the preliminary version of the later Australian Painting exhibition at the Tate Gallery), centered upon competing claims for the right of selection between the CAS, the State Gallery Directors, the Tate Gallery authorities and the CAAB. As we have seen, these debates also involved a questioning of the CAAB’s authority.

Ultimately, the Tate show only partially succeeded as the Australian Government’s showcase of nation. The exhibition was promoted alongside Australian art books from the Australian Publishers Association, a selection of prints and cards forwarded by the state galleries, and the launch of Smith’s Australian Painting. Art critics and Australian artists in London were invited to a party at Australia House. The CAAB also arranged a private view for the Friends of the Tate Gallery, a view for the British press and an official opening. The main opening of the Tate show, launched by Field Marshall Slim, the former Governor-General of Australia, was well attended by 530 guests. These included members of the diplomatic corps, gallery directors, gallery trustees and members of the press.41

The CAAB ensured that Australian Painting was properly hung, sending board member Robert Campbell to London to supervise proceedings. Campbell confirmed the CAAB’s suspicions by reporting that the Tate had not presented the exhibition to its best advantage. Although Campbell was confident that Australian Painting would look ‘vital and original’ in comparison with ‘recent Tate purchases of contemporary British, French and American paintings,’ he also believed that it would ‘not hang quite as well as it did in the new wing in Adelaide. The Tate Galleries are a bit old fashioned’.42 Alongside a scepticism concerning the ‘quality’ of contemporary art, Campbell’s comments reveal a pride in Australia’s achievements that was an essential part of the Tate show’s agenda. After all, the new Adelaide gallery was in stark contrast to the Victorian structure of the Tate Gallery.

Australian painter Len Crawford captured the atmosphere of anticipation and excitement surrounding the ‘prestigious’ Tate exhibition in a letter: ‘Everybody on their toes for the Tate opening on Wednesday – invited artists at a loss – “Dinner jackets” imperative!’43

Once Australian Painting opened, Robert Campbell’s reports kept the CAAB informed about the exhibition’s progress. He noted: ‘The show caused some surprise [because] most critics were under the impression that no quality painting had been done in Australia before Nolan and Drysdale’.44 Len Crawford’s letters confirm that the London public regarded the Tate exhibition as the definitive canon of Australian art. As an Australian artist resident in London but not selected for the Tate show, Crawford recalls: ‘you’re just a bum if you’re not in the Tate show – etc. It’s a very subtle effect – in the art shop where you buy paints, people whom you meet in galleries etc. Eyes light up, “Oh – Australian painter! Was yours in the Tate?” Then a very pointed interest to some other matter after my answer’.45

Despite the prestige associated with it, Australian Painting’s intended message of Australia’s progress from colony to independent prosperous nation was undermined by the very conditions of the imperial relationship that allowed the exhibition to occur in the first place. Menzies’s and the CAAB’s privileging of London as the ultimate destination for an exhibition of Australian painting was a consequence of Australia’s previous colonial relationship with the United Kingdom. Although negotiations surrounding the exhibition were characterised by the constant power struggles between Australian and British authorities, the prime minister and the Board were nevertheless flattered to receive a request from the Tate Gallery for an exhibition of Australian art. Newspapers enthusiastically reported how the Queen and the Duke spent nearly an hour looking at the show and ‘chatted with a number of Australian artists with works in the show’. These artists were also presented to the Queen.46 This Royal patronage of Australian Painting further strengthened the links between this show and former imperial exhibitions. Appropriately, the Queen’s visit to Australian Painting was a prelude to her Royal Tour of Australia in March 1963.

However, the British public’s interest was clearly shifting away from the Commonwealth towards America. That the British response to Australian Painting was lukewarm was partly due to a changing social climate. Films such as Rock around the clock (1956) and the emergence of the teddy boys signalled the development of a distinctive youth popular culture. American movies and music were seen as a challenge to the appeal of ‘fine art.’ The increasing affluence of the British nation, recognised in Macmillan’s 1957 slogan, ‘You’ve never had it so good’, helped to fuel great social change. Holidays, car ownership and the motor car became commonplace (Marwick 1982; Pugh 1999).

During the late 1950s American art also became an increasingly dominant influence upon the work of British artists. In January 1956, the Tate Gallery presented Modern Art in the USA, including works by Marc Rothko and Jackson Pollock. The New American Painting Tate exhibition followed this in 1959. The same year, the Whitechapel Art Gallery presented a retrospective exhibition of Pollock’s work. In September 1961, immediately following Recent Australian Painting, it also presented an exhibition of Rothko’s paintings. The new generation artists, presented at the Whitechapel during 1964, responded to the hard edge painting that was current in America during the early 1960s. At the same time, exhibitions such as Place, held at the ICA during 1959, presented large, American-influenced abstract paintings. These large canvases were arranged into a maze that emulated a newly emerging, rapidly changing city space, an idea that was to become central to the concept of ‘Swinging London’.

By 1963, the new Commonwealth idea was all but obsolete. The Notting Hill riots of 1958 revealed that there was a gap between the concept of a ‘free and equal Commonwealth’ and the actual situation in which colonial prejudices continued to affect attitudes towards migrants arriving from the ‘former Empire’. In addition, the Suez crisis of 1956, the expulsion of South Africa from the Commonwealth in 1961 and, finally, the United Kingdom’s decision to seek membership of the European Union from 1962 caused the cultural and economic imperatives behind the Commonwealth concept to fade. In this context, the Tate show formed the backdrop to the prime minister’s conference of 1962 at which Menzies made final efforts to persuade the British Government that the Commonwealth should continue as a force in order to maintain the strong emotional and cultural links between Australia and ‘the mother country’ (Ward 2001).


Given the changing social and political context in London during the early 1960s, how did British critics review the Tate show? Generally they were less concerned than the Australians with the intricacies surrounding the exclusion or inclusion of particular artists within the canon. Most British critics had little background knowledge and drew upon the Tate show catalogue introductions and parts of Smith’s (1962) Australian Painting to furnish them with a brief context in which to place the artworks. Nor were these critics particularly concerned with an aesthetic and critical analysis of the works in terms of their relation to European modernism. The prime value of the British critical response is that it gives us an insight into English attitudes towards a nationalist, Australian cultural enterprise. The critical approach is informed by the previous history of Anglo-Australian relations. Consequently, a majority of the critics drew upon a series of well-worn stereotypes concerning the exotic nature of Australia’s art or its progress as a nation.

The national prestige aspect of the show was tarnished by the scandals surrounding the CAAB’s selection for Australian Painting. The CAAB failed to prevent news of these debates from reaching London. Tucker’s criticism of the Tate selection hit the Evening News in London and by the beginning of April a critical report had been published in the London Times.47 By this point, Rothenstein had cancelled his proposed trip to Australia because he feared that it would be extremely embarrassing to be associated with the exhibition while these reports were being published in the newspapers.48

Following the opening of Australian Painting, the Observer noted that it ‘arrives trailing clouds of controversy. It is an officially promoted affair in which Menzies himself was initially much interested – the kind of thing which puts artists automatically into a defensive posture’.49 Geoffrey Grigson delivered a devastating critique of the Tate show as an official exhibition warning that ‘I suppose it is roughly the purpose of the Australian exhibition at the Tate to say “Look, we have arrived, we can do it, at last” – we not being artists, but the politicians and art officials representing a feeling that Australia hasn’t been able to do it’. He took the Tate Gallery to task for participating in ‘the sneaking, sniveling parts in the various political prestige games of frequently other peoples’ art nationalism’.50

Other press reviews viewed Australian Painting as a ‘colonial’ exhibition. The Times noted that Australian painting was ‘a remarkable instance of Commonwealth development’51 and the Sphere perceived the Tate show as ‘an exhibition of striking achievement and abundant promise … a warming experience in the middle of winter’.52

Remnants of an imperialist rhetoric were also evident in reviewers’ constructions of Australia as an ‘uncultured’ and ‘uneducated’ nation. The Catholic Herald wrote ‘Australia gave them their vision but Europe has taught them how to express it’53 and the Jewish Chronicle was concerned that ‘it would be sad if the national flavour of their art, which is rooted in soil and legend, should be dissipated because they cannot find at home a satisfactory climate for their work’.54

Much of the critical response reiterated ideas that had been cast in reviews of previous Australian art shows, particularly Nolan’s retrospective exhibition (1957) and Recent Australian Painting (1961). These reviews fall back upon imperial stereotypes concerning the exotic and ‘alien’ nature of Australian art, coupled with a view that Australian painting reflected the vigour of a ‘young’ nation. For Guardian critic George Butcher the contemporary art of Australia was symptomatic of the ‘remarkable effervescence of painting by Australians since the war’.55

Most reviews focused upon the work of Nolan, Drysdale, Tucker and Dobell. Of this artist group, it was Nolan who was heralded as the figurehead of all Australian painting. Wraith described how a group going through the Tate show did not stop to look at any paintings until they had ‘found a handful of Sidney Nolans’.56 Nolan’s representation was supplemented with a collection drawn from the Tate and private collections on display in the sculpture gallery. Although the inclusion of six works by Nolan was an attempt to place his work within a broader context of contemporary Australian art and to give him fair and equal representation, many reviewers regretted that there were not more Nolans in the show. The Observer lamented ‘there will be none of Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly paintings and all except one of Arthur Boyd’s pictures are very early landscapes’.57 Grigson’s review commented that there should be 20 not six Nolans.58

The Tate show (unlike the Whitechapel show) failed to introduce other contemporary Australian artists to the London art scene. Many critics had difficulty with the concept of ‘Australian painting’ and grappled with the problems Smith attempted to define in his Antipodean Manifesto of 1959. Could one talk of an Australian art tradition, given its close association with European movements? Was it simply the landscape that differentiated Australian painting from that of other countries? If this was so, how could one talk about an Australian art if it did not lie within the mythic, figurative landscape subject matter of Australia’s most well-known painters? Critics such as John Russell questioned the view of Australian art arising from the nation’s soil, pointing out that ‘Australian art owes more to European art than the visual material it has to hand’.59

A minority of reviewers welcomed the historical survey approach, but the majority dismissed the colonial and impressionist works as parochial and immediately turned their attention towards the contemporary section. George Butcher’s review was typical in this regard. He felt that the colonial and impressionist sections ‘should not be taken seriously’. The Illustrated London News viewed the impressionists as one of the least exciting sections of the exhibition. The Catholic Herald argued that ‘the real strength of the exhibition – and one suspects this reflects the situation accurately – lies in the moderns’.60

The Tate exhibition signaled the decline in the popular support for Australian painting following the success of Nolan, Drysdale, Whiteley and others. The Times review was typical in this regard declaring that Australian Painting:

could not add very much to the general picture of recent Australian painting that has been built up at Whitechapel and in various one man shows … it can hardly be greeted with cries of revelation that welcomed the first discovery of certain individual Australian artists in this country a few years ago.61

An exception to this tepid response was, again, Grigson’s insightful but hostile review. Having dismissed the enterprise as national propaganda generated by the Australian Government, he launched a devastating attack against the characterisation of Australian painting as:

fresh, young and energetic … Anyone who goes to the Tate needs to have with him a bottle of solvent to get rid of that epoxy resin high stress glue of Australianity … The effect as you walk through remains generally and overwhelmingly one of decibels and road drills, of colour clatter and eye bashing, there being nothing so stupid as a larger than usual giant with clumsy limbs … And so far as Australia’s best art (not acknowledged at all by the white policy pushers at the Tate) has been by other Aboriginals of much higher degree. Still they had a long start in Arnhem Land and elsewhere (Grigson 1963).


As we have seen, the Australian Government’s desire to present a celebratory narrative of the nation’s progress to a British audience influenced the art canon presented within Australian Painting. The initial selection choices for the show represented the last stand of the conservatives such as CAAB Chairman William Ashton, who continued to support the ideologies of the inter-war art establishment. Despite massive revisions to the exhibition, women, non-British migrants and Aborigines remained peripheral and lesser known contemporary artists were not shown.

The official exhibition Australian Painting generated a huge amount of debate. Considering the dearth of major publications concerning Australian art between 1945 and 1962 and the limited opportunities for Australian artists to exhibit overseas, the disputes surrounding the international Tate exhibition and its ‘prestige’ catalogue can well be understood. Consequently, Australian Painting became a site of contestation in which the State Gallery Directors, the Tate Gallery authorities, the CAAB and the CAS each vied for their position within the ‘official’ Australian art canon. Recent Australian Painting at the Whitechapel was organised in part as a corrective to the rumoured Tate show.

Australian Painting and the disputes surrounding it give a unique insight into the post-colonial, Anglo-Australian relations of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The CAAB aimed to present Australian Painting as a statement of national pride as well as an advertisement to encourage potential British migrants to come to Australia. Yet at the same time, the exhibition fell within the imperial art show tradition with participating artists presented to the Queen. London critics saw the exhibition in terms of ‘exotica’, thereby reinforcing previous colonial hierarchies between the centre and ‘other.’ Grigson recognised the nationalist agenda and took offence at the Tate becoming involved in other countries’ nationalisms. Ultimately, Australian Painting was only moderately successful, as much an indication of a changing political climate as the quality of the show itself. Former colonial models of Anglo-Australian relations were fast becoming obsolete. British interest was turning away from the ‘cultural Commonwealth’ concerns. London’s great enthusiasm for Australian painting had passed.

In Australia, the selection disputes led to a questioning of the CAAB’s authority. The CAS’s exposure of the close relationship between Menzies and the CAAB intensified the hostility towards the Board. The complaints generated change within the infrastructure of the Australian art world. Following Australian Painting, the CAAB’s monopoly over art for export was finally shattered. State Gallery Directors and private art dealers became more involved with the selection process for official exhibitions. Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary and the disputes surrounding it then, played a pivotal role within the cultural politics of the period 1959 to 1963.


1    Thomas, Daniel. 1998. Interview with the author, Devonport.

2    White to Clark, 24 July 1953, 8812.6944, Clark Papers, Tate Gallery Archives (hereafter TGA), London.

3    Tate Gallery ‘Minutes’, 21 June 1962, TGA.

4    Purchases included Untitled Red (1960) by Brett Whiteley and Triptych (1954–60) by Godfrey Miller, both acquired from the Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibition Recent Australian Painting for the Tate Gallery in 1961. See Tate Gallery Acquisitions, TGA.

5    Minutes 1949, TGA.

6    See ‘Exhibitions, 13 November–15 December 1957’, ‘Minutes’, Tate Gallery, 4, 1957, TGA. Georges Mora, ‘CAS minutes’, 13 January 1957, CAS Papers, MS 8246, State Library of Victoria (hereafter SLV), Melbourne.

7    ‘Exhibitions’ ‘Minutes’, Tate Gallery, 13 November–15 December 1957, TGA.

8    ‘Exhibitions’ ‘Minutes’, Tate Gallery, 15 January 1958, TGA.

9    Minutes, Tate Gallery 1959, first quarter, TGA.

10    Tate Gallery Exhibition: Sir Colin Anderson’s discussion with the prime minister and Sir William Ashton, 23 January 1961; A463, 1962/6830; prime minister’s discussion in London with Director of the Tate Gallery, A463, 1962/6835. Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board files, National Archives of Australia (hereafter NAA).

11    Menzies to the CAAB, January 1960, Meeting of CAAB, Sydney Jan–Feb 1960, A463, 1960/3022; Tate Gallery Exhibition, London: Policy, A463, 1967/2704, NAA.

12    CAAB member and the Chairman of the State Gallery Directors’ Council, Robert Campbell, took Rothenstein’s letter of request to the CAAB.

13    ‘Report to the Prime Minister’, 9 October 1959, Tate Gallery Exhibition: Suggested List of Paintings, A463, 1962/6836, NAA.

14    Anderson to Rothenstein, 24 January 1961, Australian Painting, TG92/172/1, TGA.

15    CAAB Meeting Minutes, 13 July 1960, A463, 1960/5098, NAA.

16    Cable from McCusker to Cumming, 3 July 1960, Tate Gallery Exhibition: Selection of Paintings: Policy A 463, 1962/6828. CAAB Meeting: Sydney, 13 July 1960, A463, 1960/5098, NAA.

17    Robertson to Rothenstein, 5 December 1961. Australian Painting, TG92/172/1, TGA.

18    Russell Drysdale to Bryan Robertson, 27 March 1961, Recent Australian Painting, ex. 2/78/3, Whitechapel Art Gallery Archives, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

19    A forthcoming article will argue that Recent Australian Painting was highly innovative compared to the Tate show. The negative portrayals of Bryan Robertson concerning his motives for putting on Recent Australian Painting and concerning the effect the show had upon the portrayal of Australian artists in London put forward by Smith, Lynn, Harris and others, should be questioned.

20    ‘Australian Art at Flood Tide: the Post Nolan Era’, Times (London), 27 March 1961.

21    J McCusker to WR Cumming, April 1961, A463, 1962/2381, NAA.

22    WR Cumming to McCusker and the CAAB, 19 June 1961, Tate Gallery Additions and Return of Paintings, A 463, 1962/6829, NAA.

23    James McGregor (former director of the NGV) quoted in a letter from Will Ashton (CAAB chairman) to James McCusker (CAAB secretary) in McCusker, ‘Tate Gallery Exhibition: History’, 23 January 1961, Tate Gallery Exhibition: Suggested List of Paintings, A463, 1962/6828, NAA.

24    Meeting of CAAB: 13 July 1960, A463, 1960/5098, NAA.

25    Anderson to Rothenstein, 6 January 1961, Australian Painting, TG92/172/1, TGA.

26    Anderson to Rothenstein, 6 January 1961.

27    Rothenstein to Campbell, 9 May 1960, Australian Painting, TG92/172/1, TGA.

28    J McCusker (the CAAB Secretary) to Daryl Lindsay, 24 August 1960, Tate Gallery Exhibition: Selection of Paintings: Policy A463, 1962/6828, NAA.

29    Paintings by Sir Hans Heysen-Inclusion in the Tate Gallery Exhibition, A463, 1962/6837, NAA.

30    Lloyd Dumas quoted in Advertiser (Adelaide), 19 March 1962.

31    ‘Rare Chance to See Paintings’, Sunday Mail (Adelaide), 17 March 1962.

32    Albert Tucker, ‘Art Exhibition for the Tate, Misrepresentation of Our Ability’, Herald (Melbourne), 28 March 1962.

33    Cumming to Rothenstein, ‘Press Statement Issued by Australia House,’ 13 April 1961, Australian Painting, TG 92/172/1, TGA.

34    Hall Missingham. ‘Letter to the Editor: Art Exhibition in London – the Position of the State Gallery Directors’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 April 1962.

35    (Heathcote 1995, 149) citing Herald (Melbourne), 28–30 March 1962 and Sydney Morning Herald, 1 April 1962; Ian Sime, interview with Christopher Heathcote, 21 May 1989.

36    Albert Tucker, ‘Misrepresentation of our ability: Letter to the editor’, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 1962. See also Alan McCulloch, ‘Not nearly good enough’, Herald, 28 March 1962.

37    William Ashton, ‘No selection will please everyone’, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March 1962.

38    ‘Proposed Art Exhibition by State Galleries’, Conference of State Gallery Directors, A463, 1962/6682, NAA.

39    Wallace Thornton to J McCusker, 21 June 1962, Tate Gallery Additions and Return of Paintings, A463, 1962/6829, NAA.

40    Phillip Fargher to Weaver Hawkins (CASNSW President), CAS Papers, MS 8246, SLV.

41    McCusker to Cumming, 23 November 1962, Tate Gallery Exhibition 1963: Publicity, A463, 1962/5168, NAA.

42    See Campbell to McCusker, 15 Jan. 1963, Cumming to McCusker, 24 Jan. 1963, Opening of Exhibition of Australian Art at the Tate Gallery, NAA.

43    Len Crawford to Ruth McNicholl, January 1963, Argus Gallery Papers, Box 5, MS 9304, SLV.

44    ‘Tate Gallery exhibition: Mr Campbell’s Report’, A463, 1962/5506, NAA.

45    ‘Crawford to McNicholl, 1 March 1963, Argus Gallery Papers, Box 5, MS 9304, SLV.

46    See ‘The Queen Laughs at Red Lady’, Daily Mirror (London), 30 January 1963.

47    ‘Australian Art Row Comes To A Head’, Times (London), 2 April 1962.

48    John Rothenstein to Sir Colin Anderson, 6 April 1962, Australian Painting, TG92/172/1, TGA.

49    Nigel Gosling, ‘The Struggle of Australianism’, Observer (London), 27 January 1963.

50    G Grigson, ‘Australianity’, New Statesman (London), 15 February 1963.

51    John Russell, Sunday Times (London), 27 January 1963.

52    Sphere (London), 16 February 1963.

53    ‘Press and Periodicals: Australian Art in London’, Catholic Herald (London), 23 February 1963.

54    P Stone, ‘Soil and Climate’, Jewish Chronicle (London), 1 February 1963.

55    George Butcher, ‘Australian Painting’, Guardian (London), 24 January 1963.

56    Robert Wraith, Studio, January 1963.

57    Observer (London), 13 January 1963.

58    Grigson, ‘Australianity’.

59    John Russell, Sunday Times (London), 27 January 1963.

60    ‘Press and Periodicals; Australian Art in London’, Catholic Herald.

61    ‘Australian Art in Three Phases’, Times (London), 24 January 1963.



Advertiser (Adelaide), 19 March 1962.

Catholic Herald (London), 23 February 1963.

Daily Mirror (London), 30 January 1963.

Guardian (London), 24 January 1963.

Herald (Melbourne), 28–30 March 1962.

Jewish Chronicle (London), 1 February 1963.

Nation (Sydney), May 1962.

New Statesman (London), 15 February 1963.

Observer (London), 13 January; 27 January 1963.

Sphere (London), 16 February 1963.

Studio (London), January 1963.

Sunday Mail (Adelaide), 17 March 1962.

Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March–2 April 1962.

Times (London), 17 March 1961; 2 April 1962; 24 January 1963; 27 January 1963.


Argus Gallery Papers, Box 5, MS 9304, State Library of Victoria (hereafter SLV).

Australian Painting, TG92/172/1, Tate Gallery Archives (hereafter TGA) Tate Gallery, London.

Bryan Robertson, letter to the Telegraph 1961. Recent Australian Painting, 2/78/3, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Whitechapel Art Gallery Archives, London.

Clark Papers, 8812.6944, TGA.

Exhibition: Suggested List of Paintings, A463, 1962/6837, National Archives of Australia (hereafter NAA).

Georges Mora, ‘CAS minutes’, 13 January 1957, CAS Papers, MS 8246, Latrobe Australian Manuscript Collection, SLV.

Meeting of CAAB, Sydney Jan–Feb 1960, A463, 1960/3022, NAA.

Meeting of CAAB, 13 July 1960, A463, 1960/5098, NAA.

Meeting of CAAB, April 1961, A463, 1962/2381, NAA.

‘Menzies to the CAAB, January 1960’, Meeting of CAAB, Sydney Jan–Feb 1960, A463, 1960/3022, NAA.

‘Minutes’, Tate Gallery 1949, 1957, 1959–1962, TGA.

Paintings by Sir Hans Heysen: Inclusion in the Tate Gallery Exhibition, NAA.

Prime Minister’s Discussion in London with Director of the Tate Gallery, A463, 1962/6835, NAA.

‘Proposed Art Exhibition by State Galleries’, Conference of State Gallery Directors, A463, 1962/6682 NAA.

‘Report to the Prime Minister’, Tate Gallery, 9 October 1959, A463, 1962/6836 NAA.

Sidney Nolan Papers, 1951, TGA.

Tate Gallery Additions and Return of Paintings, A463, 1962/6829, NAA.

Tate Gallery Exhibition 1963: Publicity, A463, 1962/5168, NAA.

Tate Gallery Exhibition, London: Policy, A463, 1967/2704, NAA.

Tate Gallery Exhibition, London: Policy, A463, 1967/2704, NAA.

Tate Gallery Exhibition: Selection of Paintings: Policy, A 463, 1962/6828, NAA.

Tate Gallery Exhibition: Sir Colin Anderson’s Discussion with the Prime Minister and Sir William Ashton, A463, 1962/6830, 23 January 1961, NAA.

‘Tate Gallery exhibition: Mr Campbell’s Report’, A463, 1962/5506, NAA.


Daniel Thomas interview with the author, Devonport 1998.


Alomes, Stephen. 1999. When London Calls: The Expatriation of Australian Creative Artists to Britain. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). 1960. Australian Aboriginal Art. Exhibition catalogue. Sydney: AGNSW.

Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA). 1962. Antipodean Vision: Australian Painting, Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary. With commentaries by Clive Turnbull, Elizabeth Young, Daniel Thomas. Melbourne: Cheshire.

Astbury, Leigh. 1985. City Bushmen: The Heidelberg School and the Rural Mythology. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Australian Art Today. 1940. Sydney: Ure Smith.

Barnes, Carolyn; Jackson, Simon. 2008. ‘“A significant mirror of progress”: Modernist design and Australian participation at Expo ’67 and Expo ’70’. In Seize the Day: Exhibitions, Australia and the World, edited by Darian-Smith, Kate; Gillespie, Richard; Jordan, Caroline; and Willis, Elizabeth. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 20.1–20.19.

Baume, Nicholas. 1986. ‘Recent Australian Painting, 1961 and An Australian Accent, 1984’. In Constructing the History of Australian Art: Eight Critiques, edited by Terry Smith. Sydney: Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney.

Bonython, Kym. 1960. Australian Painting: A Colour Survey of Australian Art 1950–1960. Adelaide: Griffin Press.

Catalano, Gary. 1981. The Years of Hope: Australian Art and Criticism 1959–1968. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 87–99.

Christie’s Auction House. 2000. The Harold E. Mertz Collection of Australian Art. Catalogue. Melbourne: Christie’s.

Clark, Kenneth. 1977. The Other Half: A Self Portrait. London: John Murray.

Grigson, Geoffrey. 1963. ‘Australianity’. New Statesman (London): 15 February.

Haese, Richard. 1981. Rebels and Precursors: The Revolutionary Years of Australian Art. Melbourne: Allen Lane.

Heathcote, Christopher. 1995. A Quiet Revolution: The Rise of Australian Art 1946–1968. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). 1948. 40,000 Years of Modern Art: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern. With an essay by WG Archer and Robert Melville. Preface by Herbert Read. Exhibition catalogue. London: ICA.

Lynn, Elwyn. 1961a. ‘The Aboriginal Art Exhibition’. Meanjin Quarterly. (July): 38–41.

Lynn, Elwyn. 1961b. ‘Australia Rediscovered’. Meanjin Quarterly. (September): 337–339.

MacLean, Ian. 1998. White Aborigines. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Marwick, Arthur. 1982. British Society since 1945. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Menzies, Robert. 1951. ‘Foreword’. In Jubilee Exhibition of Australian Art. Sydney: Ure Smith.

Moore, William. 1934. The Story of Australian Art. 2 vols. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Morphy, Howard. 2001. ‘Seeing Aboriginal Art in the Gallery’. Humanities Research 8 (1).

New Burlington House. 1953. Twelve Australian Artists. With introduction by Laurie Thomas. Exhibition catalogue. Arts Council of Great Britain in assoc. with Australian State Gallery Directors and the CAAB. London: Burlington House, Imperial Institute.

New Metropole Arts Centre Gallery, Folkestone. 1963. Australian Painting and Sculpture in EuropeToday. With introduction by John Eveleigh. Exhibition catalogue. Folkestone: New Metropole Arts Centre, 20 April–26 May 1963.

Pigot, John. 2001. Norman MacGeorge: Man of Art. Exhibition catalogue. Melbourne: Ian Potter Gallery.

Pugh Martin. 1999. State and Society: A Social and Political History of Britain, 1870–1997. New York: Oxford University Press.

Queensland Art Gallery. 1963. Australian Painting Today: A Survey of the Past Ten Years. With introduction by Robert Hughes. Exhibition catalogue. Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery [toured Europe 1964–65].

Robertson, Bryan. 1995. ‘The London Years’. In Barry Pearce. Brett Whiteley Art and Life. Sydney; London: Thames and Hudson and AGNSW.

Rothenstein, John. 1938. The Life and Death of Conder. London: Dent.

Scott, Sarah. 2003. ‘Imaging a nation: Australia’s representation at the Venice Biennale 1958’. Journal of Australian Studies 79: 53–63, 225–229.

Scott, Sarah. 2004. ‘The politics of patronage: Exhibitions of Australian art in Europe: 1953–1965’. Ph.D. thesis, University of Melbourne.

Smith, Bernard. 1959. ‘Antipodean Manifesto’. In The Antipodeans. Melbourne: Victorian Artists Society.

Smith, Bernard. 1961. ‘The Myth of Isolation’. In Australian Painting: The John Murtagh Macrossan Lectures. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.

Smith, Bernard. 1962. Australian Painting. London: Oxford University Press.

Smith, Terry. 2002. Transformations of Australian Art. vol. 2. Sydney: Craftsman House.

Tate Gallery. 1961. Yugoslav Exhibition. Exhibition catalogue. London: Art Council of Great Britain.

Tate Gallery. 1963. Antipodean Vision: Australian Painting: Colonial, Impressionist, Contemporary. With contributions by Clive Turnbull, Elizabeth Young and Daniel Thomas. Exhibition catalogue. Melbourne: Cheshire, 1962. Tate Gallery in association with CAAB, Jan–Feb 1963.

Tate Gallery. 1964. Canadian Painting 1939–1963. Exhibition catalogue. London: Tate Gallery.

Thomas, Daniel. 1962. ‘Contemporary’. In Tate Gallery. 1963.

Thomas, Laurie. 1960. ‘Introduction’. In Bonython, Kym. 1960. Australian Painting: A Colour Survey of Australian Art 1950–1960. Adelaide: Griffin Press.

Turnbull, Clive. 1962. ‘Colonial’. In Tate Gallery. 1963.

Ure Smith, Sydney. 1940. Australian Art Today. Sydney: Ure Smith.

Ward, Stuart. 2001. Australia and the British Embrace: The Demise of the Imperial Ideal. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Whitechapel Art Gallery. 1957. Sidney Nolan: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings from 1947 to 1957. With introduction by Colin MacInnes. Exhibition catalogue. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery in association with H Williams and Sons Ltd.

Whitechapel Art Gallery. 1961. Recent Australian Painting. With contributions by Kenneth Clark, Bryan Robertson and Robert Hughes. Curator Bryan Robertson. Exhibition catalogue. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, June–July 1961.

Young, Elizabeth. 1962. ‘Impressionist’. In Tate Gallery. 1963.

Cite this chapter as: Scott, Sarah. 2008. ‘A colonial legacy: Australian Painting at the Tate Gallery, London, 1963’. Seize the Day: Exhibitions, Australia and the World, edited by Darian-Smith, Kate; Gillespie, Richard; Jordan, Caroline; and Willis, Elizabeth. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 19.1–19.22.

© Copyright 2008 Sarah Scott
All rights reserved. Apart from any uses permitted by Australia’s Copyright Act 1968, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process without prior written permission of the copyright owners. The fact that this book is published online does not mean that any part of it can be reproduced without first obtaining written permission: copyright laws do still apply. Inquiries should be directed to the publisher, Monash University ePress:


   by Kate Darian-Smith, Richard Gillespie, Caroline Jordan, Elizabeth Willis