The Collection of Dr Samuel Arthur Ewing
This exhibition is an opportunity to re-visit one of the founding gifts to the University of Melbourne’s Art Collection. Dr Samuel Arthur Ewing’s 1938 gift, of 56 paintings was the first major donation of art to the University. A qualified pharmaceutical chemist and surgeon, Dr Ewing studied medicine at the University of Melbourne. He was also an art patron and collector of considerable vision.
Dr Ewing began aquiring art in 1908, when artists and writers sought to create a distinctive national identity through painting and literature. At the same time public art galleries were established across the country, and major bequests made to enrich their collections.
Believing his collection of landscapes, portraits and figure studies would play a role in fostering a love of country and the formation of Australia’s national identity, Dr Ewing’s collection may be viewed by contemporary audiences as reflective of an altogether different era. Current debates about the colonisation of Australia; the lack of Indigenous presence in the landscapes and the representation of gender encourage reflection on changes in our values and beliefs, and shifts in the interpretation of Australian art.