Warrnambool Art Gallery

Warrnambool Art Gallery

Warrnambool Art Gallery was established in 1886 and has actively been acquiring artwork ever since. In 1986, a purpose built building opened on the civic green, Warrnambool. It houses two permanent collection galleries, a prints & drawing gallery, a temporary exhibitions space and a community gallery. The Gallery is a memorial to Sir Fletcher Jones.

165 Timor Street, Warrnambool, VIC
10.00am - 5.00pm Monday to Friday, 12.00noon - 5.00pm, Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Adults $4, Concession $2, Seniors and Students free
Disabled access, disabled toilets, free car parking, picnic area, shop, guided tours, research facilities, education programs, community gallery, membership, newsletter, touring exhibitions, brochure available.
The collection covers European Salon painting, Australian Colonial painting, Melbourne Modernism (c1930-50) and Contemporary Australian Prints and works of local historic significance. The Gallery holds a biennial print award of $10,000, the Rena Ellen Jones Memorial Print Award.


Painting 19th Century Landscape

Tower Hill

Eugene von Guerard
Oil on canvas. Depicts Tower Hill, an extinct volcano, near Warrnambool.

The picturesque crater lake of Tower Hill, located west of Warrnambool, has fascinated artists since it was first seen by European settlers.

This painting of Tower Hill was painted in 1855 by Eugene von Guerard. The painting was commissioned by land owner James Dawson who found Tower Hill to be one of the most beautiful and interesting specimens of an extinct volcano in all Victoria. Sadly however, this beauty was destroyed through clearing of natural vegetation and grazing. The image depicts the Aboriginal people of the area, the Gunditjmara, who were moved off the land in the 1860’s to a local mission.

The late 1850’s saw the formation of a lake from the original marsh. Tower Hill was Victoria’s first national Park in 1892 but continued to be used for grazing. By the 1920’s the area had been completely drained and all of the vegetation cleared from the hills and the surrounding crater rim. From 1961 the area was declared a State Game Reserve and a restoration program was undertaken which involved the reforestation of the hill and the replanting of the fern gullies which were once a feature of the landscape.

The von Guerard painting was used as the model for the replanting of Tower Hill. The artist’s detailed picturesque style enabled scientists to identify over 20 plant species from the painting. This is a fascinating example of art imitating nature and then nature imitating art.

The painting has recently been touring overseas with the National Gallery of Australia exhibition "New worlds from Old". Eugene von Guerard also made several drawings, watercolours and lithographs of Tower Hill which are also in the collection of the Warrnambool Art Gallery


Second Class

Douglas Green
Oil on Canvas. Depicts figures on a train.
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Douglas Green was born in Ballarat in 1921 and attended Melbourne Technical College. From 1944-47 he was a student at the National Gallery of Victoria School and from 1946-47 a student of the George Bell School. It was while he was at the NGV School that the NGV Travelling Scholarship, which had not been given since 1938, was resumed. The Scholarship provided the winner with a monthly stipend to travel and study overseas for two years. The competition in 1947 was judged by noted Australian artists Daryl Lindsay, Alice Bale, Douglas Dundas and Eric Thake.

The entrants submitted a figure drawing, a painting of a half nude and a composition of the student’s own design, the award tending to rest upon the latter work. In a field of work dominated by tonalists, the judging panel broke with convention in the choice of the winning entry.

The Scholarship was won by Douglas Green for Second Class, which was painted in a traditional manner and was based on compositions by El Greco and Veronese. The
use of tempera underpaint and oil glazes was also in the style of Veronese. The image shows John Brack and Helen Maudsley who were drawn from life. The work is socially conscious art, it depicts the daily experience of the average Australian in the postwar social climate. The image shows the people who were the moral, social and economic spine of Australia. The figures are depicted at the moment between public and private spheres, between home and workplace. They are self absorbed, physically together yet emotionally apart without a sense of community. The painting seems to correspond with Menzies’ idea of the forgotten people- the middle class. However the irony of the image is that the prewar social order had not been replaced, it had been restored. The people who were the backbone of the nation were relegated to ‘second class’, hence the title of the work.

The painting was criticised when it won Green the scholarship because it was seen to flaunt traditional skills and endorse the modern movement. The painting was said to be composed not observed. The furore was not just public perception, one of the judges Mary Bale was known to favour the runner up, a tonal study by Judith Peny.

Douglas Green travelled to England on his scholarship. He returned to Australia in
1952 and worked as an advertising designer, then as a teacher with the Victorian
Education Department.

The Warmambool Art Gallery also owns several photographic studies for the work second class, as well as a preparatory cartoon and sketches which add another element to the work.


Tiger Man

Daniel Moynihan
Etching on paper. Depicts man dressed in skin of Tasmanian Tiger , or Thylacine
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Melbourne based artist Daniel Moynihan has recurrently used the theme of the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine in his work. He has studied the Tasmanian tiger extensively in museums in Australia and overseas. The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery have allowed Moynihan access to all the items in the collection related to the Tasmanian tiger including specimens and documents detailing sightings of the animal now thought to be extinct.

In an interview published in Imprint (vol.33, no.3 p14 Peter Hill asked Moynihan "what is a Tiger man, is it a hybrid creature you have invented?". Moynihan replied "No, they existed. I found there were these men employed by various land owners in the 1850’s to eradicate the tiger and these men were called Tigermen. They would dress up in the skins of the tiger and live as virtual hermits. In a strange way for me, the men, with these skins wrapped round them, started to become the animal. At this point in my work the human element and the tiger element started to fuse."

The print was purchased through the Henri Worland Memorial Print Award which ran at the Warrnambool Art Gallery until 1991. This was replaced in 1997 by the Rena Ellen Jones Print Award which runs biennially and is an acquisitive prize of $10,000.

Oil Painting

The Angler

Eisman Semenowsky
Oil on board. Depicts woman fishing at river
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Little is known of Eisman Semenowsky, a Polish painter working in Paris in the 1880’s.

A 1903 commentary in the Warrnambool Standard described this picture as "a charming effort" surmising that "the fair lady in the foreground is casting her net for other fish than those in the river. The inevitable ‘mere man’ will assuredly be in evidence to bank the lady’s fish when she catches it, and attend to the re-baiting of the hook" (6/3/03) Such an imaginative interpretation is the result of the paintings open endedness. It is not a clear narrative statement, but has a jigsaw like effect. The background is a warm atmospheric landscape, the figure of the woman provides the excuse for an elaborate drapery study, the parasol, jug and shawl at her feet compose a neat still life and there are even suggestions of the then fashionable ‘japonisme’ in the parasol and bamboo like rushes in the foreground.

Oil Painting

Study for the Arrow Catchers

Jeffrey Smart
Oil on Artists Board. Depicts three men carrying large arrow signs
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Jeffrey Smart’s first ambition was to be an architect, and love of the created environment and relationships between buildings and other man made structures and people has been the focus of his art for over 40 years. His paintings present a world of ideal beauty, of colour and form and also of the absurd and surreal.

Study for the Arrow Carriers carefully models forms of men and circular signs against flat planes of pavement and sky. The subject is about the effect of technology on our visual environment, that is the effect of the high speed long distance car and truck. The arrow carrier’s walk up a giant’s landscape of merging road surfaces which curve off into infinity. The painting is in part, an ironic comment on the scale of contemporary industrialisation- what is that the arrows, which dwarf their carriers, are meant to guide or ward off? The bright colours of the work counteract the suggestion of a sinister world where people are controlled and physically dominated by mechanical invention. The clear cool light, long shadows showing the scene lit from the side relate Smart’s surrealism to de Chirico.