Jacaranda Art Society 1961-1987
The Jacaranda Art Society held an acquisitive prize from 1961 to 1987. The society donated its collection to the Gallery in 1988.
The Jacaranda Art Society Collection is the founding collection of the Grafton Regional Gallery. It is a collection of paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints and sculptures.
In 1961 the Jacaranda Art Society held their first Jacaranda Art Prize exhibition, as part of the Jacaranda Festival held every year in the last week of October and the first week of November in Grafton. The Jacaranda Art Society was inaugurated in 1961 from the desire to bring contemporary art to the Clarence Valley; their ambition was to eventually establish a gallery in Grafton. Works were acquired by the Society through the annual Jacaranda Art Prize and by donation and purchasing from 1961 to 1987.
As a substantial collection of works developed so did the Society's determination for the collection to be housed in a gallery. Between the occasional exhibitions of the collection, the society displayed the works in various businesses around Grafton. Society members changed the works regularly for maximum public viewing. However this was inadequate for such a valuable and growing collection.
The Collection reflects not only the tastes and opinions of the judges but also the Society. This comprehensive collection is particularly important to the community and the region as it reflects the community's interest in and support of contemporary art.
The works held in this collection encompass Australian art in 1960s to the 1980s thereby landscapes and the Australian environment predominate. Featured artists include Dora Toovey, James R Jackson, Margo Lewers, Irene Amos, Douglas Pratt, Phylis Paulina Waterhouse, Michael John Taylor, Guy Warren, Marjorie Bultitude, John Santry, Peter Laverty, John Winch, Elisabeth Cummings, John Firth-Smith, Clem Millward, Freida Cochrane, Anne Marie Graham, Ursula Laverty, Rob Jago, Ken Strong, Suzanne Archer, David Fairbairn and Jack Schafer.
Major movements in Australian art history are represented including artists working in the style of the Heidelberg School of 1885 - 1900, the Modern Movement 1910 - 1939 (between the wars), artists associated with the Contemporary Art Society in Sydney, Australian Avant-garde of 1939 - 1950 and the Abstraction period from 1951 to1968 which saw the content of work shifting from the figurative to non- figurative, expressive/symbolic and the landscape. Furthermore the contemporary art of Post 1968 which carried through figurative expressionism initiated in the 1940s and 1950s and the realism and naive art of late 1970s and early 1980s are also found in the collection. Some of the artists represented are well known, established names whilst others are only known to academics, art students and art enthusiasts. The Society believed that art was for everyone and that its collection would be a lasting asset to the city.
In 1985 Prentice House was purchased by Jacaranda Art Society and Grafton City Council. On 26 March 1986 the Prentice House Art Gallery officially opened with an exhibition of 26 selected works from the Jacaranda Art Society's Collection. The Jacaranda Art Society ran the Prentice House Art Gallery for two years on a volunteer basis. Over this time the Grafton City Council moved to run the gallery as a regional gallery and to acquire funding. There was a lot of controversy with the Grafton City Council, nearly half of the councillors voted against funding the gallery including a life member of the Jacaranda Art Society.
In 1987 a submission to the Bicentennial Authority was successful on obtaining a grant for $300,000 for restoration and beautification of Prentice House. For the funds to be granted the building had to be officially taken over by the Grafton City Council and be managed as a regional gallery. This had been the Society's aim.
Finally the council agreed to accept the conditions and in mid 1987 the gallery closed for major renovations under direction of local architect Tim Shellshear. The Grafton Regional Gallery was officially opened in March 1988. Julian Faigan was appointed the gallery's first director and at this opening the Jacaranda Art Society Collection was gifted to the gallery.
The foresight of the Jacaranda Art Society has allowed the Grafton Regional Gallery, at inception, to hold a strong collection by significant artists and of movements of the mid to late twentieth century Australian art.
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Imaging by Simon Hughes