Alfred Deakin, one of the architects of Federation, said that the deed was
accomplished only by a series of miracles. Today we can barely imagine how hard
it was to forge six quarrelsome colonies into a single nation. John McDonald, curator
of the exhibition, argues that it is still debatable whether those issues that unite us
as Australians outweigh those that divide us.
Federation: Australian Art and Society 1901-2001 is an exhibition that confronts
such questions. A mosaic of the past century, Federation looks at the entire sweep
of Australian history and culture, from the opening of the first parliament to the
vibrant and diverse society we have become. The exhibition is both a celebration of
one hundred years of nationhood, and a critical survey of our achievements.
To tell the story of the twentieth century some 270 works of painting, sculpture,
photography and the decorative arts have been assembled. The list of participating
artists features many of the most distinguished names in Australian art, including
Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Margaret Preston, Russell Drysdale, William Dobell,
Grace Cossington Smith and Max Dupain. Celebrated 'icons' will be set alongside
lesser-known works that enrich our appreciation and understanding of the more
Among the highlights of the show are several major paintings from the National
collection, that have never been previously exhibited, including George Lambert's
restored masterpiece, The Old Dress (1906); John Olsen's Sydney Sun (1965),
purchased recently; and Keith Looby's Resurrection (1964), a gift of James Fairfax AO.
The Director of the National Gallery of Australia, Dr. Brian Kennedy said that 'It is
fitting, as we approach one of the most significant moments in the history of
Australian nationhood, that we pause and reflect upon these great images. In this
exhibition viewers will discover the splendid visual representation of what it means to
The exhibition is supported by the National Council for the Centenary of Federation,
as one of the central events of the anniversary festivities. After the show concludes
in the national capital in February, it will tour to Melbourne, Townsville, Newcastle,
Perth, Darwin and Launceston - a program that should enable as many Australians
as possible to experience this historic collection.
Aotearoa New Zealand, 1951
More a part of the landscape than a pair of trousers
(Detail) Gift of Mambo Graphics,
National Gallery of Australia