In addition to assessing titles on approval and searching for new publications, we at the Frick Art Reference Library also search for titles to backfill our holdings. One area that is particularly rich is the small antiquarian exhibition catalogues from Australia from the 1920s and 30s. Very few of these catalogues and checklists make it out of Australia, yet they provide a glimpse into a very active facet of Australian art history.
Most of the Australian antiquarian items we purchase are small exhibition catalogues – they are generally no more than 20 or so pages and sometimes include small images of the artwork. The largest area of focus appears to be artists exhibiting in Sydney and Melbourne between 1920 and 1935 often exhibiting as part of an artist’s society. One such society – The Society of Artists – was especially prolific. Our holdings now include many of the Society of Artists catalogues of small exhibitions, and larger annual exhibitions, featuring artists such as Russell Drysdale, Thea Proctor, and Julian Ashton. Many of the artists featured in these catalogues, especially members of the prominent Lindsay family as well as artists like Hans Heysen, traveled widely and exhibited in other countries. Thea Proctor, a woodcut artist, was heavily influenced by Japanese woodcuts. These catalogues elucidate the influences on Australian art, provide provenance information, and inform pricing and exhibition practices in Australia at the time.
Part of what makes our collection of Australian exhibition catalogues so intriguing is not just its uniqueness – although we are often the only holdings in the United States or even outside of Australia itself. The catalogues are exceptional because of the variety of artists they feature: male and female artists get equal footing and a variety of styles and genres are exhibited. The catalogues provide a glimpse into the art scene in Australia in the 1920s and 30s– a hive of activity that I didn’t know existed until I began to backfill on our holdings on Australian art.
- Front cover of Hans Heysen’s Recent Watercolours Including Paintings of the Flinders Range. Sydney: Grosvenor Galleries, 1928
2. Page of Hans Heysen’s Recent Watercolours Including Paintings of the Flinders Range. Sydney: Grosvenor Galleries, 1928
3. Front cover of Exhibition of Lithographs by Miss Thea Proctor and a Group of London Lithographers. Melbourne: Fine Art Society, 1922
4. Inside view of Exhibition of Lithographs by Miss Thea Proctor and a Group of London Lithographers. Melbourne: Fine Art Society, 1922
Mary Seem is Cataloging and Acquisitions Associate at The Frick Collection