Rare 1889 exhibition works make it to auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 13th November, 2018

The renowned The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition of 1889 will once again be brought into sharp focus when Sotheby’s Australia auctions two of its rare paintings from 6.30pm Tuesday November 20 in Sydney’s Intercontinental Hotel at 117 Macquarie Street.

The wood panel paintings – Charles Condor’s Arcadia, June 28th 1889, and Tom Roberts Mentone (1889) – have not been displayed together since the original Melbourne exhibition.

Condor’s painting, which captures the essence of coastal life on Port Phillip Bay with the arrival of the world class P&O Line’s steamship Arcadia, dates from the artist’s brief but crucial period in Melbourne from 1888 to 1900 – regarded as a definitive moment in the history and development of Australian art.

Mentone, portraying a vision of sunlight and shade on the edge of Port Phillip Bay waters, was described at the time by The Argus newspaper art critic James Smith as one of the best to be included in the exhibition.

Condor’s paintings from the 1889 exhibition are extremely rare. Of his 46 exhibited works, 12 are in public collections, 10 in private hands and the remaining 24 lost or unknown to art historians and scholars.

According to Sotheby’s Australia, the historical significance of Arcadia is further enhanced by its most distinguished provenance.

Part of the private collection of John Williams Maund, founder of the legal practice J.W. Maund & Kelynack and Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales trustee from 1933 to 1956, in more recent times the painting belonged to Benno Schmidt.

His extensive collection of Australian art included Russel Drysdale’s Drover’s Wife 1945, and Sidney Nolan’s Daisy Bates at Ooldea 1950 and Burke at Cooper’s Creek 1950, now all residing in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Tom Roberts was the largest exhibition contributor – his 62 impressions comprising a diverse range of subjects including landscape, portraiture and genre themes ranging in price from one to nine guineas.

His exhibition works are held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Australia and National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

Mentone was once owned by founding director of Sydney’s Grosvenor Galleries Walter Taylor and included in the 1950 exhibition that reassembled works from The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition.

Viewing will be at 30 and 34 Queen Street, Woollahra in Sydney.

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