Tom Robert's Mosman's Bay, the painting at the centre of the Hinton Bequest case.
Marcel, I have begun putting up the story of the Hinton case. You will find it here. It will take me some time to write properly.
I got depressed as I went through the material.
My father used to joke that anything that had his name attached to it was bound to vanish. And indeed there was some truth in this. The block named after him at the University of New England burnt down, the part of the University Union bearing his name was demolished.
No one can halt the course of history. Yet it can be hard when you see past dreams tarnished by the brush of time.
When the Armidale Teacher's College was established in 1928 as the first non-metro tertiary institution, it was not just a 'a country college for country kids', it was the first building block in what was seen as the infrastructure required to support self-government for New England. This comes through clearly in David Drummond's emphasis that the College must be seen not as an Armidale institution, but as one for all the people of the North.
The progressive donation by Howard Hinton to the College from 1929 of 1100 paintings and 700 art books created a collection that matched those in many capital city galleries and is today worth over a $100 million. Probably a fair bit more than that.
Unlike galleries where you visit, these paintings were hung on the College walls and were part of the daily life of students, many of whom had never seen a work of art.
Hinton was determined that his collection would not be broken up. He tied it up in such a way that when the vagaries of changing Commonwealth Government policy made the College a College of Advanced Education and then forced its merger with the University of New England, a merger that I opposed to the point of orchestrating opposition that blocked it for a period, control of the collection passed to the Armidale City Council.
By the time the New England Regional Art Museum was created in 1983 to hold the Hinton collection as well as the smaller Armidale City collection, the original dream was already badly faded.
Those creating NERAM did not promote the new venture as a gallery for all of the North, but as a Tablelands, venture. I thought then as I do now that this was a fundamental error, because it meant that NERAM was seen as essentially an Armidale thing.
This remains true, leaving the Armidale Council to try to support what is in fact a major national collection, including as it does now not only the Hinton and Armidale City collections, but also the Chaney Coventry collection.
Chaney was a New England grazier who fell in love with art and was to establish a major Sydney private gallery. I remember going to a showing in his Sydney motel room in 1967 where he had on display some of his latest purchases.
In the late 1970s after having given some works of art to Armidale, Coventry offered his collection on the understanding that an art museum would be built to house both his and Hinton's collections. Through a huge community effort and with assistance from government funding NERAM was opened in 1983.
The Chandler Coventry Collection was described by James Mollison, the former Director of the Australian National Gallery, as one of the most important private collections of contemporary Australian Art.
The collection currently has over 400 works of art and strongly reflects recent art movements.
The focus is on expressionist and abstractionist painters with some figurative artists and includes paintings by Ralph Balson, Peter Booth, Gunter Christmann, Janet Dawson, Elaine Haxton, Leah MacKinnon, Michael Taylor, Dick Watkins and Brett Whiteley.
So NERAM is home to two very different art collections, both of national significance. In addition, the museum also has the museum of printing dedicated to the printing industry and based on the Wimble collection.
Now the very existence of NERAM and these collections are under threat, a threat made worse by a botched attempt to sell a half share in Tom Robert's Mosman's Bay to the NSW Art Gallery, an attempt that has thrown a legal cloud over the Hinton collection itself.
I have still (28 July) not made any progress on the Hinton story. In the meantime, Marcel's comments have been helpful in clarifying my views.
As I said in a response, I do admire the clarity of English that some lawyers/barristers like Marcel can bring to bear upon a problem. I stand in awe.