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Out of the West: Art of Western Australia from the National Collection at the National Gallery of Australia
James Peele, Mount Eliza, winter 1898. Oil on canvas. The Wordsworth Collection, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2010.

CANBERRA.- Out of the West is the first survey exhibition outside Western Australia to present a large sample of Western Australian art from pre-settlement until today. It includes well known images and new discoveries. Works by established early artists, Robert Dale, Thomas Turner, James W R Linton, A B Webb and Kathleen O’Connor, as well as those by more recent artists such as Herbert McClintock, Harald Vike, Elise Blumann, Guy Grey-Smith, Robert Juniper, Howard Taylor, Brian Blanchflower, James Angus and Rodney Glick, will be shown, alongside significant works by many less familiar names.

When settlers started arriving in Western Australia nearly two centuries ago, they were mesmerised by the light, heat, long horizons, and vast expanses. By the twentieth century art societies had formed and local traditions had developed. Out of the West presents a starting point for visitors to the National Gallery of Australia to explore the art made from these responses to Western Australia, through a diverse range of media including painting, sculpture, drawing, print-making, photography, video installation, jewellery, furniture, decorative arts and design.

Vital to the exhibition are important historical works from the National Gallery’s recently acquired The Wordsworth Collection. This collection has been lovingly assembled over more than 40 years by Marie Louise Wordsworth, one of Western Australia’s most passionate and respected collectors. Based on Marie Louise’s deep knowledge of Western Australian history and her family heritage, the collection covers the period from Western Australia’s beginning as a free-settlement colony in the early mid-nineteenth century, through the importation of convict labour in the 1850s, and the discovery of gold in the 1890s. It includes rare views of Albany, Augusta, Bunbury, Esperance, Gingin, Rottnest and Toodyay. Her passion for Western Australian colonial furniture was pursued with a singular intensity, with the best aims in mind. These items are highly important for their rarity.

The exhibition is a curatorial selection of work drawn from the National Gallery’s collection, rather than a full survey. Some works by Western Australian artists remain on display in the Gallery’s collection displays of Australian art as well as the newly opened Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander galleries.

The National Gallery of Australia has a responsibility to show the full gamut of Australian art—from all states, over all periods. The exhibition showcases the major group of works that the Gallery has recently purchased alongside works the Gallery has owned for some time. It also complements the rich public and private holdings of Western Australian art held in Perth.

The exhibition follows the National Gallery’s 2010–2011 display Tasmanian Colonial Art 1830–1850, in which recently purchased early Tasmanian works were exhibited alongside works that the Gallery has held for many years.

In addition to the exhibition Out of the West, a series of programs will be held with a particular focus on Western Australian art and writing and other creative activities that show how the West has been a profound influence on Australian culture.

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