Australian art takes two forms – Aboriginal and Colonial. Any art collection depends on the taste of the individual collector but to have a rounded collection of Australian artwork, it would be a good idea to try and cover all historical bases.

Some of Australia’s most prolific colonial artists have risen from Victoria. The era just after the European settlement saw contemporary art in Australia go from a ‘European sense of light’ to ‘Australian sense of light’. The stylization changes ever so slightly so inflections of each European country can still be seen yet the subject matter starts to change and focus on the new and undiscovered land. It started with very heavily focused natural art – the new raw fresh countryside attracted a lot of naturally themed works of art from many new settler artists. Contemporary Art Gallery Melbourne captures these images and the development that follows.

As the settlers began to explore, the very early nature-based works of art became more focused on discoveries. The images began to focus heavily on natural discovery images, more rugged landscape and of course the aboriginals themselves. The Jackman Gallery Stockroom has a variety of images which show this transformation. From here art exhibitions began to become more and more popular – this could be because there was something now new and original to discover. The people in the towns and camps were intrigued by life outside of the settlement.

When the 20th century was reached we began to see the rise of Australian born artists, those who had lived their whole lives in the country and had no first hand memories of being elsewhere. It was over this period of time that style really developed and contemporary Australian art began what we know it today. It is this work that is mainly on show at the Contemporary Art Gallery Melbourne in The Jackman Gallery. Sculpture also began to rise in popularity and artists such as Bertram Mackennal, who was born in Melbourne, became iconic figures – he was famous for designing the coinage and stamps bearing the likeness of George V of the United Kingdom.

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