Australian history

Encounters

February 11, 2016
Mask made from turtle shell plates, Mer, Torres Strait islands. Acquired by an unknown collector before 1855.

‘Civilisation’ is a concept that has changed beyond recognition over the past century. To the pioneering ethnographers of the Victorian era, tribal cultures were merely stages on the way to the civilised state. Viewed as backward, impoverished and superstitious, it was accepted that such communities would wither and die as they fell under the spell … More


Robert Hughes, 1938 – 2012

August 19, 2012
Screen shot 2012-08-19 at 9.53.55 AM

When Robert Hughes died last week, I spent much of the day on the telephone. Inevitably, the passing of this great, controversial figure was a media event of the first order. Among the mass of small comments I had to produce, the Sydney Morning Herald asked for a quick 500 words. The following day the … More


Impressions: Painting Light & Life

February 4, 2012
Julian Ashton, 'Study of Alice Muskett', oil on wood, 1893

A survey of portraiture by Australian artists of the late nineteenth century would seem to be long overdue. Despite the institutional obsession with all things contemporary, the works of the so-called Australian Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin and Charles Conder – remain the most popular drawcards in our public collections. The problem … More


From Bondi to Broken Hill

May 1, 1998

It was in the middle of a London winter that I first became aware of the great, abiding seductiveness of Sydney. The occasion was a trip to the movies on one of those typically grey days when a little watery sunshine appears at about 10 o’clock and is gone by half-past three. The air was … More