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Art Gallery of Ballarat Hanging up our Past

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Hanging our past: Gordon Morrison pictured hanging some of the art drawings of old Ballarat at the city’s gallery.

A NEW exhibition from the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Ballarat will soon be on display to the public.

Gallery director Gordon Morrison said the exhibition will feature work by Ballarat artists, or work related to Eureka, or in some cases images looking at the history of the city and its surroundings over 150 years. When we caught up with Mr Morrison he was about to set up the 19th century component of the Ballarat and surrounds exhibition.

“We have lots and lots of really interesting bits to work with here,” he said. “We can start with 1858 and 1859 images of both east and west of Ballarat, which were done by a Frenchman by the name of François Cogné.” Mr Morrison added this was an era that predates photography and these are first images of Ballarat and they are very important. Another example, Mr Morrison gives is around The Ballarat Star, a newspaper of the 1860s.

“The newspaper commissioned an artist to do a drawing from top of the fire tower in Sturt Street, looking east across to Warrenheip and Black Hill and this was turned into a black and white print which was given away to subscribers of the Star.”

“These images are highly realistic and you can recognise everything in them and they culminate in a painting which was commissioned by the colonial government in Victoriaits two paintings the other was of Bendigo. It is an aerial view of the two main inland cities in Victoria and those two paintings were sent to an exhibition in London in 1886 and the theme of that exhibition was ‘Progress in the farthest reaches of the British Empire’ and so Ballarat and Bendigo were together, held up as examples of progressive British Society in the furthest colonies and the emphasis was people were meant to look at that and say look what they have achieved in the space of 30-35 years, it was a propaganda painting essentially.”