NGA to fight for
The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has reaffirmed its commitment to acquiring two iconic paintings by George Stubbs for Australia’s national art collection.
The paintings, A portrait of the Kongourou from New Holland and a companion painting and A Portrait of a large Dog from New Holland, were painted in 1772 as a commission from naturalist and botanist Sir Joseph Banks.
It has been reported that the National Maritime Museum has commenced fund raising to acquire the works for its collection, however the NGA feels the National Maritime Museum does not have a strong case in support of acquiring the Stubbs paintings for its collection.
Director of the NGA, Ron Radford said the two paintings remained central to the history of both Australian art and its colonisation.
“These are the first non-Indigenous paintings of Australia’s iconic kangaroo and dingo, the first oils to be seen by Europeans of this newly discovered land,” Dr Radford said.
‘The Stubbs image of the kangaroo is an Australian icon.
“It was the basis for the kangaroo on Australia’s first coat of arms and the source of countless popular engraved images of the kangaroo for over 60 years.”
He said the NGA had more than 50 engravings related to this painting, and many more existed.
“These works belong in Australia’s national art collection, the country’s largest and most balanced collection of Australian art,” he said.
Dr Radford said the National Maritime Museum was basing its claim on its position as a ''centre of excellence for the interpretation of Cook’s three great voyages'', however the works were painted after Cook’s death and commissioned privately by Banks.
“The case presented by the National Maritime Museum, that the works belong there because Sir Joseph Banks commissioned the paintings following his voyage with Captain Cook is very tenuous,” he said.
“The claim that the resulting painting of a kangaroo—an icon of Australia’s national identity—should be ‘saved’ from being displayed in the national art collection of the very country from which the animals originate is not a strong argument.”
A portrait of the Kongourou from New Holland
Edition 375, 20 August 2013