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Former guide of the National Gallery of Australia Alan Boxer leaves $8 million bequest
Sidney Nolan (1917–1992), Kelly and figure 1962. Oil on hardboard, 122 x 122 cm © Sidney Nolan Trust. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. The Alan Boxer Bequest, 2014.

CANBERRA.- The National Gallery of Australia unveiled 19 works from the Alan Boxer Bequest, one of the most significant acts of generosity in the Gallery’s history.

The bequest comprises key works by some of Australia’s finest twentieth-century artists, including Roy de Maistre, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, John Olsen, Charles Blackman, John Perceval and Brett Whiteley.

A dedicated and insightful collector, Boxer enjoyed a strong relationship with the Gallery over many years. He took a keen interest in the developing national collection, visiting the off-site store before the building opened to the public in 1982. Following his retirement, he became a voluntary guide at the Gallery allowing him to share with the public his deep knowledge of Australian art of this period.

‘This is an exceptional bequest and we will honour Alan Boxer as a passionate collector through the ongoing display, study and publication of his remarkably generous bequest,’ said Gerard Vaughan, Director.

Some of the works fill major gaps in the collection, including Blackman’s Rabbit tea party 1956–57 from his highly regarded series Alice in wonderland. Rabbit tea party reflects Blackman’s interest in a child’s imaginative world, an interest he shared with his wife, poet and author Barbara Blackman and artists such as Joy Hester and Sidney Nolan.

Blackman, Nolan and Tucker enjoyed making series of related works. Tucker’s Gamblers and parrots 1960 was identified by Boxer as the first work of significance that he bought for his collection and, as he said in an interview in 2000, it remained one of his favourites.

Sidney Nolan’s Kelly and figure 1962 is a striking and thought-provoking work providing a fascinating contrast to his iconic Ned Kelly paintings of 1946 and 1947 in the national collection.

Boyd’s Dreaming bridegroom II 1958 is one of the finest paintings from his ground-breaking Bride series. Inspired by a visit to central Australia in the early 1950s, the series is rich in symbolism relating to complex interconnections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Two remarkable paintings by Olsen, McElhone Steps 1963 and Childhood by the seaport 1965, were included in the artist’s retrospective in 1991–92 at the National Gallery of Victoria and Art Gallery of New South Wales. Childhood by the seaport recalls Olsen’s early years in Bondi and the freedom of a child in the water, at one with the natural environment. Similarly, Perceval’s Early morning, Williamstown 1956 conveys the artist’s spontaneous, buoyant and quite distinctive response to a seaport at a moment when he produced his finest works, and helps to fill a gap in the collection.

‘Alan Boxer’s taste and connoisseurship were known and respected during his lifetime and it is heartening to know that he will be remembered in perpetuity through his munificent bequest to our National Gallery,’ said Dr Vaughan.

Other works in the bequest include those by artists Donald Friend, Leonard Hessing, Elwyn Lynn, Stanislaus Rapotec, Kevin Connor and James Wigley as well as a rare painting by art critic Robert Hughes.

Alan Howard Boxer was born in Hong Kong on 13 December 1927, the son of Stanley Victor Boxer, a British-born missionary in China who moved to Melbourne after World War II. Alan graduated with first class honours in his Bachelor of Arts degree and with first place in the School of Economics at Melbourne University in 1949. In 1952 Boxer was appointed lecturer in economics and later became a Reader in Economics working with many esteemed economists of the day. His publications included Aspects of the Australian Economy (1965). In 1975 Alan was elected a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He left Melbourne to join the Treasury in Canberra, in 1975 and retired in 1986. Boxer began collecting art in the 1950s. By the end of the twentieth century his home in Canberra was filled with outstanding examples of works by significant Australian artists. He died on 28 June 2014.

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