Membership charity the Art Fund
has successfully placed 27 works of art from a major bequest in 15 museums across the UK . The works of art belonged to Ann Forsdyke (1913 2007), who worked at London s Whitechapel Art Gallery during one of the most vibrant periods in its history, at Apollo magazine, as assistant to Australian artist Sidney Nolan and at the British Museum . The Forsdyke Bequest includes pieces by Henry Moore and Prunella Clough, as well as works by Sidney Nolan and two other important Australian artists who worked in the UK , Arthur Boyd and Roy de Maistre.
Ann Forsdyke bequeathed her art collection to the Art Fund in 2007 when it was valued for insurance at £516,700. Reflecting the connections made by Ann during her life, the Forsdyke Bequest contains several works by major Australian artists as well as other international and British artists supported by the Whitechapel during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: This rich and colourful collection captures a flavour of Ann Forsdykes tastes and influences, as well as the zeitgeist of the London art world at a time when innovative institutions such as the Whitechapel were flourishing. We are delighted to have found homes for each of these beautiful works, allowing Ann Forsdykes dedication to the arts to live on. We encourage other collectors to bequeath their works to the Art Fund, and ensure they find suitable homes and are available for all to enjoy.
The single most important work in the collection is Arthur Boyds oil painting Bride Drinking from a Creek 1960, which has been bequeathed to Tate. The work was valued for insurance at £250,000 in December 2007. It has entered Tates permanent collection and will go on display later this year. Painted with vigorous brushstrokes, the work focuses on an Aboriginal woman in Western bridal attire as she bends over a creek, her arms outstretched and her oversized hands grasping towards the shrubbery around her. Clad in white, the bride takes centre stage, but the browns and reds of the land and the blue sky play an equally important role in the overall composition, which is rooted in the Australian landscape.
Arthur Boyd (1920 1999) is one of Australia s most celebrated artists and his work often focuses on Australian landscapes and Aboriginal themes. Despite his considerable success and long residency in Britain from 1959 onwards, he was until now only represented in the Tate Collection by nine prints of the 1970s. From a crucial moment in his career Bride Drinking from a Creek 1960 goes some way to rectify this.
In one of his last interviews Boyd said of this painting: When I went up to Alice Springs , I saw Aboriginal brides standing up in the truck. It didn't look too good. And I did one of Aboriginal shearers playing for a bride. They were sitting in the whirly, this tin lean-to, sitting there with cards in their hands. And the terrible conditions in the creek beds and being kept out and not being people at all. It's only in the last few years that they have had any status.
A painting by another major Australian artist features in Forsdyke Bequest Man by Tree, 1960 by Roy de Maistre (1894 1968), bequeathed to Leeds City Art Gallery. This richly coloured, stylised painting features a man reaching towards a fruit hanging from a tree. In the background, vivid reds and oranges capture the warmth of a tropical sunset. Roy de Maistre is recognised as the first Australian artist to have embraced abstraction and cubism. Born and educated in Sydney , he left Australia in 1930 to live permanently in London . His Stations of the Cross series hangs in Westminster Cathedral
Other highlights from the Forsdyke bequest include a bronze maquette by Henry Moore (1898 1986), allocated to the Graves Museum in Sheffield, and two paintings by British painter Prunella Clough (1919 1999): Landscape and Gasworks II, allocated to Portsmouth City Museum, and Monotype III, placed at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.
At the Whitechapel in the late 1950s, Ann Forsdyke assisted then director Bryan Robertson, who was influential in bringing the avant-garde, post-war generation of Australian painters to a British audience. He mounted the landmark exhibition Recent Australian Painting in 1961, which featured Man by Tree by Roy de Maistre, as well as works by Arthur Boyd and other key Australian artists. During this period Ann came into contact with many contemporary artists and gallery owners. The collection that she built up with her husband Douglas, who was a keen amateur artist, reflects the contacts she made. Many of the artworks were acquired directly from the artists.
The Forsdyke Bequest also includes four small studies by Australian artist Sidney Nolan (1917 1992), for whom Ann worked as an assistant in the late 1960s. Exquisitely detailed with rich yellows, oranges and greens, three of the works were executed on beer coasters. Sent to Ann as Christmas greetings, the studies are inscribed with personal messages testifying the artists high regard for her. The first is dated 1959 and the ones on beer coasters from 1966 to 1968. Two depict landscapes of the Australian interior, including Ayers Rock (now known by its Aboriginal name Uluru), another is a Christmas Angel floating above a flat landscape. The fourth depicts the bushranger Ned Kelly, Nolans most famous motif. The Nolan studies have been allocated to the British Museum, where Ann Forsdyke worked as a special assistant and volunteer in the Prints and Drawings department from 1981 1997. During her time at the British Museum , Ann was closely involved in the Turner Bequest, overseeing its transfer back to the Tate Gallery in 1987.
Frances Carey, a friend and former British Museum colleague of Ann Forsdyke, said: Ann cared passionately about the arts of all periods, never losing her appetite for what was new and innovative. She derived such pleasure from going to museums and galleries herself that she would be delighted to know that the public will be able to enjoy her collection in many different places.
A Londoner through and through, Ann Forsdyke lived in Blackheath for the greater part of her life, following her marriage to Douglas who was the manager of the Blackheath branch of the National Westminster bank. They had no children, and Douglas died in 1975.