Paintings by former NGV director an auction highlight

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 8th June, 2013

Paintings by the man responsible for building the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in St Kilda Road will be a major highlight of Philips Auctions decorative arts and furniture sale from noon on Sunday, June 16.

Eric Westbrook was appointed NGV director in 1954 and, at the time, the gallery was housed in a decrepit Victorian-era building – later redeveloped as the State Library of Victoria.

Westbrook worked hard to achieve State government support and funding for the new St Kilda Road building, designed by Roy Grounds and opened with great fanfare in 1968. Under his guidance from 1956 to 1973, the NGV built up an extensive art collection.

While Eric Westbrook achieved enormous success as a gallery director (and later became head of Victoria’s art ministry), what many people don’t realise is that he also was a trained artist – having studied art during World War II before moving to curatorial work.

Born in 1915 in London, Eric Westbrook married Ingrid in the 1940s and they had a daughter, Charlotte, who now lives in Canada with her husband and two children.

With the NGV appointment, the family settled in Melbourne – but in 1963 the marriage collapsed and Ingrid returned to England with 17-year-old Charlotte.

Westbrook subsequently married Dawn Sime, a noted artist who from 1954 to her death in 2001 held many solo exhibitions. Several of her works appear in public institutions such as the NGV and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

When Sime and Westbrook retired in the early 1980s to Castlemaine in central Victoria, their art practice flourished as they worked side by side in a studio overlooking a bush garden.

About two years after Eric Westbrook died in 2005, Charles Nodrum Gallery organised an exhibition of both artists’ works – along with paintings, sculptures and works on paper by well-known Australian artists from the 1960s and 1970s the couple owned.

The Philip Auctions paintings (which include Dawn Sime’s works) are mainly from this exhibition and one at University Art Gallery, and part of the proceeds will go to Breast Cancer Research Australia.


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