The S.H. Ervin Gallery collection was established through the bequest of benefactor Mr Samuel Henry Ervin, collector & patron, who in the 1970s also funded the gallery bearing his name. With over 450 paintings, drawings, prints and watercolours as well as sculpture, decorative art objects and furniture, the collection primarily focuses on the period from 1850-1950. The majority of the artists represented in the collection are Australian, and primarily representative of the period from the mid-nineteenth up until the late 20th century. In addition to the S.H. Ervin Bequest, the Gallery’s collection is made up of the Alan Renshaw Bequest, the Mavis E. Cope Bequest and a number of other gifts and acquisitions.
The Gallery’s holding also include twelve watercolours by Conrad Martens and extensive collection of prints by modernist women artists including rare works by Jessie Mackintosh and Ailsa Lee Brown as well as excellent examples of the work by Thea Proctor, Eileen Mayo, Ethel Spowers, Vera Blackburn, Adelaide Perry and Ethleen Palmer. The collection also comprises a library of 250 volumes from the personal libraries of S.H. Ervin & Alan Renshaw.
The S.H. Ervin Gallery collection provides an important insight into the cultural history of Sydney. Many of the paintings, drawings, prints and watercolours reflect the collection’s focus on Sydney’s changing landscape and lifestyle. The majority of the works span the Colonial period to the mid-twentieth century, a period that witnessed the transformation of Sydney from a colonial town to a prosperous international city.
The S.H. Ervin Bequest
S.H. Ervin left 49 works from his private collection to the National Trust which form the core of the Gallery’s collection. Artists represented include Adrian Feint, George Lambert, Syd Long and Thea Proctor. Some of the objects from the bequest include a T’ang Dynasty ceramic horse and rider; a wine cooler, made from Irish bog yew, which was exhibited in the Great Exhibition in London in 1852; and a suite of furniture, made by F.C De Groot, who was known for his protest at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 in addition to paintings and watercolours and bronzes by John Glover, Eugene von Guerard George Lambert, Bertram Mackennal and Sir George Frampton.
The Alan Renshaw Bequest
Alan Renshaw graduated from the University of Sydney Law School in 1928 and became a partner in Dawson, Waldron the well known Sydney law firm. Renshaw was a foundation member of the S.H. Ervin’s advisory committee to oversee the implementation of his various bequests. He also advised many artists and became friends with many of them. Renshaw was an intensely private person and did not show his collection to anyone outside his immediate circle. Renshaw left works to the Art Gallery of NSW, The University of Sydney and many paintings, etchings and drawings to the S.H. Ervin Gallery. His bequest reflects his patronage of such post-war artists such as Donald Friend, James Gleeson, David Strachan, Justin O’Brien and Jeffrey Smart. Renshaw also bequeathed the Charles Meere painting Atalanta’s eclipse which was awarded the Sulman Prize in 1938 and a suite of works by the Italian engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi.
image: Jessie Scarvell Stormy seas, Bondi (not dated) oil on canvas S.H. Ervin Gallery Collection