Posted by: jkirkby8712 | March 1, 2012

Tuesday, 28th February 2012 – another visit to Ballarat Art Gallery and lunch with a friend!

I spent part of the day in Ballarat again today, driving down late morning for a midday arrival. Like the rest of us, Ballarat was also hit with violent storms, heavy rainfall and flash flooding. At one stage last night, about 25mm of rain fell in Ballarat in less than 10 minutes as a storm cell passed through the region. These ‘storm cells’ which have been hitting many parts of Victoria over recent days are usually short lived before they move on, but create a lot of damage and disruption during those brief periods. Between 9am and 11pm yesterday, Ballarat received 57.4 mm of rain. I’m not sure what the situation in Sunbury was, but I’m imagining it was quite similar.

I was in Ballarat for two reasons – to collect the Charles Conder painting that I purchased over the phone last week, and to have a look at the special exhibition celebrating  the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with an exhibition of vintage prints from London’s V&A Museum taken by royal photographer, Sir Cecil Beaton. This was a special exhibition of nearly 100 portraits taken by Beaton over a period of 30 years, and as I have continued over the years, to be a bit of a fan of Queen Elizabeth, I thought I should have a look, as a Member also of the Art Gallery of Ballarat.  Along the way, Heather had invited me to join her for lunch at her unit, and as it turned out, the bulk of my visit was in fact there!

Firstly however, with the Labor political dramas still ‘winding down’ in the media, I was interested to see what the Editorial Opinion in the Ballarat Courier was about the matter. Today’s Editorial provided that answer, and I’ve retained it here for historical purposes.

“Gillard has party support but can she win over the public? [Ballarat Courier Editorial, 28th February 2012]

AFTER all is said and done, the status of Australia’s government and leadership remains unchanged after Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s victory over Kevin Rudd in the Labor Party’s ballot yesterday. It was not a surprising result. Evidently, a return to Mr Rudd was incomprehensible for much of the ALP’s parliamentarians. The stories of his non-stop, hard-edged leadership style had not disappeared sufficiently enough from memory for change to be palatable. His method of campaign as a leader for the voters of Australia failed to cut through with those who had been once-bitten, twice shy. In a sense, yesterday’s vote tells us much more about Mr Rudd and his standing in the party than it does about Julia Gillard. Ms Gillard, according to published opinion polls, is not nearly as popular as Mr Rudd, yet was still seen as a preferred option. Ms Gillard is leading a government which has trailed in the polls for months, yet its members stood firm. The message from the parliamentary Labor Party is that it will not bend dependent on populism. That’s a stunning and courageous position in the cynical world of modern politics where leadership and polls are the news, and where a higher priority is placed on holding power than implementing policy platforms. Whether the outcome provides the impetus for a more stable government is hard to gauge given the previous premise. While it would seem impossible for Mr Rudd to recover after now being rejected twice by his colleagues, the spectre of a consensus candidate appearing remains a possibility if the polls do not show improvement. Ms Gillard, though, has again shown the tenacity which has become a hallmark of her time as leader and will be no doubt more comfortable. If she can extend this new certainty into results in terms of continuing her policy reform agenda, she will lead the party into the next election. The public, it seems, will be harder to win over. Concerns about the deals with the independents and Greens and the suspicion of broken promises remain a millstone of her Prime Ministership.  The last week has been the ALP at its worst. We will need to see the very best of Ms Gillard if she is to turn around her party’s fortunes.’

As for that painting, upon arrival at the Gallery ‘shop’ and presenting my credentials, it was mentioned that the day after I rang through with my purchase, the painting was enquired about by other potential purchasers.  Was a good move to pay on the spot [or the phone], as it turned out. My purchase was a glass framed copy of Charles Conder’s 1888 painting ‘An Early Taste For Literature’, the original an oil on canvas 614 x 512 mm, which was bequested to the Art Gallery of Ballarat in 1944. The work was painted at a farm at Richmond on the Hawkesbury River, in New South Wales, and captures the atmosphere  and the warmth of a rural Spring day  –  but, it is the subject matter [as per the title] of a little heifer cow blithely consuming the newspaper of the day, that turns an otherwise serious rural scene into a light-hearted fable and/or conversation piece.  The artist himself lived from 1868 to 1909, so at the time of painting this picture, he would have been 20 years of age.  Conder was originally sent to Australia by his father in 1884 in order to try and discourage him from pursuing an artistic career.  However, ignoring this, he studied art in NSW and Victoria before returning to Europe in 1890 to further his career.  Regarded as a something of a prodigy by fellow members of the Heidelberg School (which he joined after moving to Melbourne in 1888), Conder cultivated the reputation of a bohemian and revelled in the cultural life of the fin-de-siecle in Paris and London.

An early taste for literature, Charles Conder

I decided to return to the Gallery later in the afternoon – it was already close to 12.30 pm, my parking, conveniently almost in front of the Gallery, was on a limited time scale, and I was expected for lunch. Meanwhile, being a little worried about one of my tyres, I called by a couple of service stations to check the air pressure – the first gauge seemed to take ‘more air out’ which was a bit of a worry, but thankfully I was able to reverse that anomaly on a second stop.  The trip down to Ballarat had not revealed any problems, it was just that the tyre seemed a little more deflated than I felt it should be. While it had now almost stopped raining in Ballarat, the trip down here had not being so pleasant this morning – driving rain for a large part of the journey, together with light fog conditions during the second half of the trip. Not particularly enjoyable driving.

Anyway, got to Heather’s place around 12.30, in time for lunch, and another 3-4 hours of pleasant conversation, reminiscing, eating, drinking – Bill even had a glass of the Jacob’s Creek Riesling that I’d brought down from Ballarat –  later on, a combination of wine, coffee with cheese and biscuits rounded off a perfect afternoon.  One thing we talked about were the younger days at Macarthur Street Primary School, and during that, I enquired as to whether Heather recalled there ever been class photos taken and/or made available  –  I had various photos from High School days, but could not recall anything at the Primary level. Heather felt there might have been some, but was not sure whether she still had anything. Ironically, in today’s edition of the Ballarat Courier, there was a special supplement of  about 22 pages, completely devoted to school class photos of the present year from schools all around Ballarat. It occurred to me – what a magnificent resource for future family historians, searching for photos of young children from 2012.  As a genealogist myself, I decided to retain that little supplement, not so much for myself, but for perhaps a local family history group of the future, seeking such records.

I returned to the Art Gallery shortly after 4pm, and would spent about 40 minutes examining the Queen Elizabeth photographic exhibition. And yes, I did purchase the special souvenir book that had been published for the occasion. Cecil Beaton [1904-1980] was an internationally renowned photographer, a gifted designer for film and theatre, and an avid diarist [I obviously take after him on that aspect]. Throughout his long and varied career he remained a romantic royalist, and his glittering portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family became among the most widely published images of the twentieth century. From the strenuous years of the Second World War to the optimism of the Swinging Sixties, Beaton’s portraits played a significant role in shaping the public image of the British monarchy.  The exhibition included many wonderful pictures [albeit, sadly most of the earlier ones in black & white] of Elizabeth II from teenage princess to mother and sovereign, as like her mother previously [Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother], she posed for Beaton’s camera on many occasions.  For most Australians under 30 years of age,  these photos would be unseen, as the portraits finish in the 1970s, and of course, the photographer died in 1980. One can imagine that during the war years, the photos in particular, of the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, would have provided much inspiration and comfort to the people of Britain, and the Commonwealth [or Empire] at such a time. A worthwhile visit.

A more relaxing drive back to Sunbury, weather fine and cool. Stop in Melton, as I so often do, to visit Le Headquarters coffee lounge in the main street for a drink, before undertaking the final leg of the trip……….

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