WHEN the Art Gallery of NSW rejected an artwork from Howard Hinton’s collection, their loss was Armidale’s gain.
Hinton decided to send his art to the Old Teacher’s College instead, then, a brand new building with countless empty walls.
New England Regional Art Museum curator Rachel Parsons had the tough job of exhibiting just 132 of more than 1000 works.
“As a curator I really wanted to reflect how Hinton collected, it’s not particularly interpretive or thematic,” Ms Parsons said.
“It’s trying to touch upon what he felt was important or meaningful or beautiful.”
Works are displayed in a salon hang, a traditional style that came out of the royal academies – where works would be displayed from floor to ceiling.
When Hinton first moved to Australia he lived in artist camps before moving to a boarding house.
A few of his favourites hung on the wall or were kept in a wooden trunk.
“Everything else he gave away,” Ms Parsons said.
“We focus a lot on him being humble and shortsighted and quiet in a way, at the same time I think he had quite an exciting and large life.
“He was able to share what he had with a lot of people and that’s where he saw the value of his wealth and legacy.”
Hinton started as a clerk at a shipping company and quickly rose through the ranks.
He collected anything from still life, portraits, flower arrangements and landscapes of Sydney in the 1920’s to 40’s.
Australian artists like Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Sydney Long all feature in the exhibition.
They were works that had to be on the walls, Ms Parsons said.
Donating art was his way of making an exclusive world accessible to the masses.
“He had such a generous and genuine intention – which is really inspirational,” Ms Parsons said.
“That intention to make art for everyone is something we need to reiterate.
“I’ve added him to my list of ten people that are no longer with us that I’d like to have dinner with.”
Behind the scenes with a conservator, keeping art alive
STANDING in a gallery looking at an artwork from the 1930’s, it’s likely you have a paper conservator like Jennifer Taylor to thank.
The specialist skill aims to give longevity to works of art.
“I wasn’t particularly good at art school,” Ms Taylor said.
“I figured out very quickly that I was better at preserving things than I was at creating them.
“But, there’s different ways to be creative.”
Interested foremost in historic works, Ms Taylor plays a dual role at the New England Regional Art Museum.
Records and documentation as well as preserving the physical condition of the art all fall under her umbrella.
Now, she has the mammoth task of keeping more than 1000 Howard Hinton pieces in good nick.
“For the Howard Hinton hang particularly it involves not just the handling of the work but the correct placement,” Ms Taylor said.
“A lot of the original frames are here and they’ve lasted extraordinarily from 1929 onwards.
“Wherever we can we try to ensure the original work is in its original frame.”
More than 50 per cent of the Howard Hinton collection are paper pieces.
The paper works can only be on display under strict lighting and environmental conditions.
Each work will sit on the wall for up to 12 months, before it needs to rest.
Ms Taylor said the environment an art piece is in has a huge impact on it’s longevity.
Considering most made their way to NERAM from the Old Teachers’ College, it’s a wonder they’ve survived as well as they have.
“They were in less than ideal conditions at the Old Teachers’ College, they’d be bumped or dusty or in the sun,” Ms Taylor said.
“Temperature, light and humidity have to be controlled because they contribute to deterioration.”
Ms Taylor said there’s no immediate gratification in what she does.
“It’s really a profession where you are quite dedicated in what you’d like to achieve,” she said.
“For me it’s really satisfying to know that my work means an artwork could be around for an extra 50 years.
“It’s a job where you have to take the long term view.”
Hinton’s hoard, open to the masses
HINTON, Treasures of Australian Art is one of the largest collections in the country.
Iconic works by Australian artists such as Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Margaret Preston, Elioth Gruner, Julian Ashton and Norman Lindsay are on show.
The exhibition was made possible by the refurbishment of the east gallery.
Donors from across the New England gave more than $65,000 toward the building, $25,000 from the Margaret Olley Trust and $6000 from the Friends of NERAM.
The exhibition will open on the evening of Friday February 16.
The opening weekend program includes artists talks by Lucy Culliton and Liz Willing on Saturday, as well as a free guided tour and talks by Jim Belshaw and Michael Moignard.
On Sunday, drawing in the gallery encourages visitors to be inspired by Hinton’s work and draw with local artists.
There is also a free guided tour and a jazz concert with the Dixie Six, tickets can be booked at neram.com.au.