The Cammack collection - global items for the enterprising collector

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 3rd July, 2014

Norman Lindsay’s The Introduction – full of the artist’s classic nudes and suggestions – will be a major highlight of Dr Bill Cammack and his wife the late Dr Eileen Cammack’s collection to be auctioned from 1pm Saturday July 5 and Sunday July 6 by Lawsons at Menzies Gallery, 12 Todman Avenue, Kensington in Sydney.

With a catalogue estimate of $120,000-$150,000, the oil painting is an example of Norman Lindsay at his best – featuring the familiar sumptuous Ruben-esque goddesses waiting idly for their potential suitors to greet them.

Bill and Eileen both had remarkable careers, meeting when they both studied medicine at Sydney University and graduating together in 1940.

Since World War II had already begun, they both enlisted as doctors in the Australian Army Medical Corps and trained in areas that needed their skills most – namely orthopaedics and pathology.

Bill served in Tarakan, Borneo – Eileen at several Australian general hospitals and in 1944 becoming the only woman doctor at a hospital near the front line.

Married that same year, after the war they moved to Penrith and set up home at “Mountain Mists” where Eileen established a magnificent two-hectare garden.

In those days, Penrith was a rural area so Bill carried out all his orthopaedics and delivered more than 10,000 babies, while also acting as district Commonwealth medical officer.

Eileen set up her own private pathology practice and, at Nepean District Hospital’s request, established its first pathology department – subsequently becoming government medical officer for the area.

After their three children left home, Bill and Eileen found more time for community involvement.

In 1972, Eileen was elected to Penrith City Council on which she served for 19 years, with three terms as mayor.

At the time of her death in 2000, this enterprising woman was patron of about 30 local organisations, while her husband was president of the Nepean District Historical Society, patron of the Nepean Art Society and the Penrith District Cricket Club.

Both Bill and Eileen had always been interested in art. A foundation member of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Bill could draw well – although his subjects were usually anatomical, while Eileen was more into the botanical side of art.

From a background that appreciated the finer things of life, they started collecting paintings, antique furniture and objets d’art early in their marriage.

Their friendship with Sidney Woodward-Smith, Albert Sherman and Helen Baldwin resulted in much-loved landscapes, glorious floral arrangements of flowers from Eileen’s garden and moving portrayals of indigenous Australians.

The couple’s vast travels from the 1960s to the 1990s provided endless opportunities for increasing and varying their collection.

They were among the first to visit China when it opened for tourism and the only continent they did not reach was Antarctica.

The collection is testimony to Bill and Eileen’s travels and features a huge range of art, porcelain, silver, ivory, jade, glassware, bronzes and furniture from around the globe.

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