Gibson's cautiously opens doors for Melbourne art auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 11th June, 2020

Like several other Melbourne auction houses who are cautiously opening their doors to auction goers as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions ease throughout Australia, Gibson’s Auctions can now allow up to 20 people in its rooms at 885-889 High Street, Armadale for its forthcoming Australian Art and Photography sale from 6.30pm Monday June 15.

The remainder will be able to bid online, by telephone or through absentee bidding.

A highlight is the portrayal of the racehorse General (lot 39 – catalogue front cover) by Frederick Woodhouse Senior, a noted English artist who arrived in Australia and quickly established a reputation for equine paintings.

Painted in 1863, the horse was owned by Thomas Chirnside – who with his brother Andrew had migrated to Melbourne 24 years earlier and by the 1851 goldrush had settled by the Werribee River.

By the time the now 47-year-old Chirnside commissioned the painting, which the previous year had won the Geelong Steeplechase, the Victorian Turf Club Handicap Steeple and the Victorian Jockey Club Handicap Hurdles, he and his brother had amassed considerable land holdings throughout Victoria.

Their lasting contribution to Victorian history was the construction during the 1870s of an elaborate Italianate mansion at Werribee which continues as an important landmark to the present day.

The painting's provenance is from the family of Alexander McGregor Grant (1888-1973), a Victorian-born surgeon and keen horseman who in 1910 moved to New Zealand and five years later became medical superintendent at one of their leading hospitals.

In 1919, he became a member of the Auckland Racing Club, was elected to the committee two years later, and became president in 1933 – a position he held until 1968.

Grant owned more than 100 racehorses, many of them successful, and on retirement was honoured by a special race meeting and the naming after him of the McGregor Grant steeplechase.

On the catalogue’s back cover is Dorothea Lange’s black and white image entitled Migrant Mother circa 1970 (lot 148) with an $8000-$10,000 estimate.

Born in 1895 Lange was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist best-known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration.

Her photographs influenced the development of documentary photography and humanised the consequences of the Great Depression.

During World War II, Lange covered the internment and incarceration of Japanese Americans showing via her images the uncertainty of their ordeal as they were detained without being actually charged with a crime.

In 1952, she co-founded the magazine Aperture but in the last two decades of her life her health declined and she died on October 11, 1965 of oesophageal cancer.

An interesting work is Howard Arkley’s Animal Study 1972 (lot 117), a pencil on paper signed and dated that year.

The drawing is accompanied by a letter from vendor David Bradtke stating that “During the 1970s Howard Arkley and I were friends having been Art students at Prahran College of Advanced Education. During Final Year in Painting we swapped work. Howard’s signed work is graphite pencil on paper.”

The work has been authenticated by the Arkley Archives.

There are four works (lots 68-71) by Matthew Sleeth including Ilumination Circus, Taskashimaya, Shinjuku 2005.

Born in 1972, Sleeth is an Australian visual artist and filmmaker who often combines photography, film, sculpture and installation with a particular focus on the aesthetic and conceptual forms of new media.

He has consistently embraced new technologies and production methods such as 3D printing, aerial drones, electronics and computer programming in his creations.

Other works of note include Dorothy Braund’s Beach Figures (lot 1), Charles Blackman’s Felix 2003 (lot 3), Clifton Pugh’s An Old Fence 1989 (lot 31), Robert Dickerson’s Family Pet (lot 4) and James Ranalph Jackson’s Moorland Downs near Wanaaring 1954 (lot 8). There also are several paintings by leading Australian indigenous artists.


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