Australian Art at the Ian Potter Gallery, Melbourne

On our recent trip to Melbourne, it was a hot day (especially for Alex and I who are not used to 30 degree celsius weather anymore) so we decided to escape the heat and check out some fantastic Australian art at the Ian Potter Gallery, Melbourne. Once upon a time I studied art, and being an Aussie, Australian art was something I was very interested in. So I was delighted to be able to share with Alex some of Australia’s best artists and enjoyed re-discovering works by two of my favourite Aussie artists, Arthur Boyd and Russell Drysdale.

Ian Potter
The museum is also home to Indigenous Australian art work. The ground floor has a wonderful display of statues, bark canvasses and of course some beautiful didgeridoos, but no you can’t have a go!! If you have not been exposed to this type of art work, the Ian Potter is a great place to learn more about Aboriginal art and the stories the art tells.

Ian Potter
Ray Munyal, Goanna Story

Seeing the dot paintings after years away from this type of art bought back good memories of doing this in primary school (elementary school for our American readers) and my childhood travels camping with my parents in central Australia.

Australian art at the Ian Potter Gallery
When we went upstairs I was excited to see many of my favourite paintings that I had unfortunately forgotten about. While I appreciate work by John Brack, Arthur Streeton and Sidney Nolan, I love Arthur Boyd’s work. I especially enjoy his ‘Love, Marriage and Death of a Half-Caste Bride’ series. These paintings were inspired by Boyd’s observations of the tragic neglect experienced by the Aboriginal people living in central Australia. When they were first exhibited in Melbourne in 1958, the series was met with mixed reactions. I find the paintings to be both beautiful and very haunting.

Australian art at the Ian Potter Gallery
Arthur Boyd, The weathercock

The painting here is not one in the series, but is of a similar style that is depicting the human condition Boyd witnessed in inner city Melbourne in the 40’s. Around the same time as Boyd, Sidney Nolan was another famous Australia artist. This is one of his iconic images of the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly, a runaway convict. Kelly is a controversial Australian who has folk law status, but was essentially a murderer.

Australian art at the Ian Potter Gallery
Sidney Nolan, Kelly with Horse

Below is another famous painting depicting Australian life on the station, which was completed in 1890. Roberts was a key member of what is referred to as the Heidelberg School, and these paintings were often inspired by rural life and capturing the particular light of the Australian Bush. I’m not a huge fan of this style of work, but appreciate it for what it tells us about life in Australia over 100 years ago.

Australian art at the Ian Potter Gallery
Tom Roberts – Shearing the rams

The Ian Potter art gallery is centrally located in Federation Square, entry is from the Swanston Street side. Admission is free and they are open 10am-5pm Tuesday – Friday and 12pm-5pm Saturday and Sunday. They are closed on Mondays.

Russel Drysdale, Going to the Pictures
Russel Drysdale, Going to the Pictures

6 thoughts on “Australian Art at the Ian Potter Gallery, Melbourne

  1. Fabulous location and so many are now discovering this great space. I was at Ian Potter last weekend and viewed an exhibition of costumes by famous costume designers – it as great.

  2. I’m laughing at Italian bureaucracy as I read of primary/elementary school. In Italian official documents such a school is called “primary”, but everybody human call it “elementary”. Ok, enough with off topic!
    When I was in Australia I bought two of those paintings on fabric. It stated “real aboriginal art”.
    Love your country.

    1. Language is a funny thing, Alex the other night was talking about “my bank” and it sounded to me that he really owned the bank as I would never say my bank, I’d just say the bank 🙂 Even after all these years there are the strangest subtle differences!

      Glad to hear you love Aus, it’s a pretty great place, too bad it is sooooo far away!

  3. There’s some spectacular pieces there, especially the pieces showing life in Australia at the turn of the century which interests me.

    1. Yes, there are many truly beautiful pieces at the Ian Potter Gallery that really capture a different and under-appreciated time in Australian history. Have you visited the gallery?

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