International Nineteenth century
The Gallery’s founding donors, Mr George McCulloch, co-founder of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited (BHP), and his widow Mrs J. Coutts Michie OBE, endowed the collection with a number of late nineteenth century British paintings, including many works produced at the Royal Academy in London.
The Royal Academy remains significant as one of the first institutions to provide training for professional artists in Britain, beginning in 1768, and for fostering Academic art and its commitment to traditional painting and sculpture practices.
Image: James Webb, Lynmouth, North Devon, 1867. Oil on canvas (Out of Copyright)
BHRAG’s collection of late nineteenth century British paintings include Lynmouth, North Devon (1867) by James Webb; After the Bath (1890) by Harriette Sutcliffe; Memories (1891) by John William Godward RBA; Home From the Hills (n.d.) by James Coutts Michie; and the collection’s showcase painting Vae Victis! The Sack of Morocco by the Almohades, Woe to the Vanquished (1890) by Arthur Hacker R.A.
This sub-collection also includes works of local significance including A Ford on the Acheron River (1881) by Henry James Johnstone and Silver Mines, Broken Hill (1892) by J. Swinton Diston.
Image: Harriette Sutcliffe, After the Bath, 1890. Oil on canvas (Out of Copyright)
Harriette Sutcliffe is an historically overlooked artist; whose work is of great importance to the BHRAG Collection. Whilst little biographical details are known of Sutcliffe’s life, she was one of few women artists to study and exhibit at the Royal Academy, an historically male dominated institution. Her painting After the Bath demonstrates her ongoing interest in capturing the innocence and beauty of childhood in light filled, domestic scenes.
Image: Arthur Hacker RA, Vae Victis! The Sack of Morocco by the Almohades, Woe to the Vanquished, 1890. Oil on canvas (Out of Copyright)
The most monumental of works in the Collection is Vae Victis! The Sack of Morocco by the Almohades, Woe to the Vanquished (1890) by Arthur Hacker RA. Purchased by McCulloch soon after its exhibition, the painting was one of the first in what would become a collection of more than 400 works and was ultimately donated to the gallery in 1913 by his widow, Mrs J. Coutts Michie OBE.
The painting has had a tumultuous history of vandalism at the Gallery, having been attacked in both 1913 and 1970: firstly, by an unknown attacker who slashed the painting with a razor or knife, suggested to be linked to a spate of similar attacks by suffragettes throughout Britain at the time; secondly, by an unknown attacker who left tears and punctures in three places across the reclining female, said to have been a man passing through, offended by the painting’s display of nudity.
As a result, in 2018 the work was analysed and restored by senior paintings conservator Cushla Hill at the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Centre. In an incredible fundraising effort, the Gallery raised $23,000 entirely through public donations to complete these conservation works.