Monday, February 9, 2015

The Beautiful Buckmaster

For those who haven't recently visited Town Hall Gallery, our first batch of exhibitions for 2015 includes 'Placement: New Town Hall Gallery Collection Acquisitions'. Located in Gallery 3, this exhibition presents artworks that have been acquired or donated into the Town Hall Gallery Art Collection since our relaunch in November 2013. Featuring a diverse range of works and artists, 'Placement' highlights the richness of creative practice within the City of Boroondara. Not only this, but it also shows the significance of Art within the municipality.

BUCKMASTER, Ernest, Still Life (c. 1935), oil on canvas, 106 x 80cm, Courtesy of the artist and Town Hall Gallery Collection.

The oldest work on display is a luscious still life oil painting by Ernest Buckmaster (see above image). Still Life was presented to Reg and Cora Harris at the Return Mayoral Ball in 1965 by Prof. Lance and Mrs Jean Townsend for the Citizens of Hawthorn (see image below). Reg Harris was the City of Hawthorn's 105th Mayor, serving in 1964/65 and was the Councillor of Power Ward from 1958-1972. 

Prof. Lance and Mrs Jean Townsend presenting the Buckmaster painting to Reg and Cora Harris at the Return Mayoral Ball in 1965.

Reg Harris was born in 1916 and lived to the ripe old age of 92, a well-known Boroondara local. He was a shopfitter and builder, and in his retirement years a restorer of many vintage and veteran cars including Melbourne’s famous 1923 Yellow Cab, the only one in Australia. "The painting had pride of place in our parent’s dining room for 45 years," Margot Dorum, daughter of Reg Harris, comments. 

Reg Harris in Mayoral robes, 1964.

Reg Harris in the Boroondara Progress Leader, April 5, 1994.


The artist, Ernest Buckmaster, was born in Hawthorn in 1897 to English parents; his father, Harry Amos Buckmaster was a straw-hat manufacturer. Working under James Beament from 1913 (Beament was primarily a signwriter), Buckmaster was encouraged to join the Victorian Artists Society (V.A.S.) and soon after he enrolled in the National Gallery Art School and received formal art training from W. B. McInnes and Bernard Hall. Buckmaster won many prizes and sold most of his works exhibiting with the V.A.S., and continued to exhibit with the V.A.S. until 1943. He also won the Archibald Prize in 1932 for his portrait of Sir William Irvine. 

Ernest Buckmaster, 1945. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

A Boroondara local, Buckmaster married Dorothy Laura Cook at the Methodist Ladies' College, Kew, in 1936, yet their marriage only lasted 3 years, after which he married Florence Botting in 1939. He was appointed an official war artist and was assigned the task of capturing the Japanese surrender in Singapore; 25 completed pictures are held at the Australian War Memorial. His particular techniques and strong opinions on Modern Art were well-respected by his peers and Buckmaster passed away in his Warrandyte home in 1968. 

Artists like Buckmaster hold a special place in Australian Art History for their dedication to their craft. 'Still Life' represents the hand of a very well accomplished artist and a significant piece of Boroondara's history; we're proud and privileged to be able to take care of this artwork and preserve its story for generations to come.

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