Front of the Gallery

About the Collection

Australian Decorative Arts

A fine collection of Australian decorative arts is permanently displayed throughout the Gallery and spans the first European settlement in Tasmania and New South Wales in the early 1800s through to contemporary craft and design of the twenty-first century. The Gallery’s earliest Australian piece of furniture is a superb bow-fronted cedar sideboard from c.1810 made for civil surgeon Matthew Bowden in Tasmania. Colonial silver features prominently, and the Gallery has an outstanding collection of South Australian silver by the H. Steiner, J.M. Wendt, J. Schomburgk, C.E. Firnhaber and A.L. Brunkhorst. Unique to the Gallery’s collection is its display of nineteenth-century South Australian Biedermeier furniture, reflecting the Germanic heritage of the state’s settlement.

At the time of the Australian Federation in 1901 a new style established itself concerned with the promotion and use of motifs inspired by Australian flora and fauna. Taking its lead from Britain, the Australian Arts and Crafts Movement encompassing ceramics, painted porcelain, furniture and metalware, developed a sensibility that was uniquely Australian in conception. International styles influenced Australian craft throughout the twentieth century and many objects reflect an interest in art nouveau, art deco, and post-war modernism. The Gallery has fine examples of the modernist furniture of Schulim Krimper and Grant Featherston, and the textiles of Frances Burke.

Since the late 1950s the Australian Craft Revival Movement has flourished and many major figures including, but not limited to, Col Levy, Milton Moon, Peter Rushforth and Gwyn Hanssen Pigott are represented. Australian craft has been systematically collected by the Gallery since the 1960s and includes wide holdings of ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery, and textiles. More recently Australian design, including the celebrated LC1 chaise longue by Marc Newson, and Indigenous craft have been actively collection and prominently displayed.