When the McClelland Gallery opened in 1971, its collection consisted of 138 works of art, 71 through the bequest of The McClelland Estate with the remaining works gifted by artists and collectors. McClelland’s diverse and expansive collection now consists of over 2,600 works of art encompassing historical, modern and contemporary sculpture, painting, photography, works on paper and decorative arts dating from the 19th Century to present day. McClelland’s collection continues to grow through gifts, bequests, commissions and acquisitions.
This modest early collection was strengthened through a number of significant gifts, including the Orde Poynton Bequest of 155 works including East Asian decorative arts, over one hundred 19th Century English watercolours from the Maurice Callow collection, and paintings and works on paper from the collection of John Farmer, Sir Daryl and Lady Lindsay, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AO DBE, Dr Joseph Brown AO OBE, Kenneth Hood and Antoinette Niven amongst others. Through Dame Elisabeth Murdoch‘s generosity and enthusiasm a focus on Australian sculpture emerged, and the sculpture park began to develop in the early years.
With a focus on spatial practice and its relation to the environment, highlights of McClelland’s collection include a comprehensive selection of work by the Melbourne-based Centre Five group of sculptors such as Inge King and Lenton Parr, demonstrating the significant history of public outdoor sculpture in Australia; work in traditional and new media by Indigenous artists such as Dorothy Napangardi and Steaphan Paton; a strong selection of contemporary photography including works by Bill Henson and Simon Terrill; and major statements in contemporary Australian sculpture by Ron Mueck, Patricia Piccinini, John Meade and Louise Paramor among others.
19th Century and earlier
While McClelland is primarily known for its collection of modernist Australian sculpture, painting and works-on-paper, over one hundred 19th Century English watercolours and prints add depth and scope to the gallery’s permanent collection. These include Renaissance and Baroque engravings, such as Albrecht Dürer’s St George dated 1508 and monogrammed in plate, significant etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn and James Whistler, and engravings by S.T. Gill.
McClelland also holds a significant collection of landscape watercolours, lithographs and etchings by noted English artists John Constable, John Skinner Prout, James Duffield Harding, Thomas Shotter Boys, John Cotman, David Cox, Peter De Wint, Samuel Prout, Thomas Rowlandson, Augustus Pugin, and Louis Buvelot. Victorian based collector and founding member of the Old Victorian Watercolour Society, Maurice Callow, presented a quarter of these to McClelland Gallery in 1982, with the remaining works purchased through anonymous funds.
Significant sculptures from the 19th and early 20th Century include distinguished figurative sculptor Bertram Mackennal’s Circe and Truth, and William Charles Scurry’s Untitled (Three decorative figures) 1887.
Local landscape paintings and prints
McClelland’s collection also features work by significant artists in the early history of Australian landscape painting. These include oil paintings by Nicholas Chevalier, and many artists associated with the Heidelberg School and Australian Impressionism, such as Frederick McCubbin, Charles Conder, and Ethel Carrick Fox.
Work by Melbourne Tonalist painters Max Meldrum and Clarice Beckett provide a more local focus, and acquisitions have often reflected McClelland’s immediate environment and the specific landscapes of Langwarrin, Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula. These include a large collection of prints by John Farmer, paintings by Harry McClelland and drawings by Rick Amor among others.
Modern and contemporary painting and prints
In contrast to McClelland’s early modern collection of English and Australian landscape paintings, the modern and contemporary collection features a wide range of styles from abstract and non-representational, to realism, surrealism, and pop. Artists include Donald Friend, Yvonne Audette, Alan Mittelman, Roger Kemp, Charles Green and Lyndell Brown, Dorothy Napangardi, Angelina George, Stephen Bush, Jon Campbell, and Paul Davies. Prints from these periods include those by Benjamin Armstrong, Rover Thomas, Judy Watson, Fred Williams, and George Baldessin.
Modern Australian sculpture and Centre Five
Since its establishment in the 1970s, McClelland’s collection has reflected contemporaneous developments in sculpture and spatial practice. A key focus has been the Centre Five, a group formed in the 1960s by like-minded Melbourne sculptors including Vincas Jomantas, Julius Kane, Inge King, Clifford Last, Lenton Parr, Norma Redpath and Teisutis Ziakaras. The intention of the group was to join together to generate interest in contemporary sculpture in conjunction with architects and to educate the public through lectures, studio visits and touring exhibitions, as well as writing articles to promote their interests. Many examples of individuals from this group have been acquired by the Gallery through the assistance of the Elisabeth Murdoch Sculpture Foundation and through a gift from David Wynn who presented several outstanding examples of work by Vincas Jomantas, Julius Kane and Clifford Last. Beyond this seminal group, McClelland’s collection reflects the broader field of Australian modernism from abstraction to surrealism and pop.
In recent years McClelland’s collection has continued to trace important moments in contemporary Australian sculpture and spatial practice. These include works by George Baldessin, Ken Reinhardt, Stanislaw Ostoja-Kotkowski, John Davis, Sanné Mestrom, Callum Morton, Bronwyn Oliver, and Lisa Waup, as well as major statements in hyper-realist sculpture by Ron Mueck, Patricia Piccinini, and Sam Jinks.
McClelland’s unique eight hectare sculpture park is home to over 100 sculptures by contemporary artists such as Ken Unsworth, Louise Paramor, Ian Burns and John Clark, Reg Parker, Peter D Cole, Yvonne Kendall, Geoffrey Ricardo, Roman Leibach, Robert Owen and Jo Mott.
Since 2012, the Southern Way McClelland Commissions have provided an opportunity for McClelland to commission a series of ambitious large-scale public sculptures. A total of fourteen sculptures will be acquired by 2037, and works to date are by Louise Paramor, Phil Price, Dean Colls, Gregor Kregar, Michael Riddle and John Meade.
Photography, Video and Sonic Art
McClelland has a significant collection of contemporary photography dating from the early 2000s. This includes works by Bill Henson, Simon Terrill, Rosemary Laing, Janet Laurence, Robert Owen, Stephen Haley, and Pat Brassington. Recently the gallery’s focus on spatial practice has come to include video works, including those by Fiona McMonagle and Steaphan Paton. Recently, McClelland has acquired a number of significant works of sonic art, including Lawrence English’s A Mirror Holds the Sky 2019, Madelynne Cornish’s Borderlands 2020 installation, and David Chesworth’s Walking While Listening 2020, which takes the form of a sound walk. This was created specifically for visitors to McClelland’s sculpture park but can also be undertaken in any environment. Visit the Walking While Listening page here.