Collie has long been known for its rich deposits of black coal which have been the economic foundation of the town for many years. What few people realise is that the town is also a mine of cultural gold. The Collie Collection comprising works from renowned Australian artists Norman Lindsay, Guy Grey Smith, Elizabeth Durack and a host of others, has lain hidden away in storage for many years until now. Finally the collection has found a worthy home in the new Collie Art Gallery and will be the focus of the gallery’s next exhibition opening on 4 September.
The cornerstone of the collection is the Claude Hotchin Bequest, 36 works of art gifted to the people of Collie by Claude Hotchin in 1954.
Claude Hotchin was a self-made man. He left school at 11 going on to work at Clarkson’s hardware store when he was 15. At the age of 25 he married Doris Clarkson whose portrait is in the collection. The day after their wedding the couple moved to Perth where Claude helped manage a branch of Clarkson’s.
Hotchin bought his first painting, Norman Lindsay’s ‘Mutiny’, in Sydney in 1937. From that moment forward the couple’s home became a showcase for art and a meeting place for artists. It is claimed that over the following forty years, he purchased an average of one painting each week to give away to some other gallery or institution.
In 1950 Hotchin retired to a very active life, collecting art and encouraging young Western Australian artists and established the Claude Hotchin Art Prize for WA artists. From 1947-1964 he was a board member of the trustees of the Perth Public Library, WA Museum and was the first Chairman of the Art Gallery of WA.
In addition to his generous bequest to the people of Collie, Hotchin launched the art collections of other regional towns including Katanning, Northam, Narrogin, Kalgoorlie, Manjimup, Busselton Wagin, Kojonup and Fremantle. Hotchin ultimately donated an estimated 2000 paintings to public art galleries, local governments and other institutions.
Today the Collie Collection has grown to nearly 90 individual pieces. Some have been acquired through the Griffin Festival of the Arts & Crafts, a unique long-standing community event that celebrated and encouraged the creativity and talent of the Collie community.
The Collie Gallery Group has also acquired a number of works since its inception in November 2013, through donations from art loving community members, which have included works from artists of the Carrolup school, such as Reynold Hart and Jimmy Dabb.
The Carrolup school was based at the Carrolup River Native Settlement near Katanning. For five years from 1946 to 1951, the child painters of Carrolup generated more international interest in indigenous art than any other indigenous artist at the time. Tragically the school was closed in 1951 the children were then taken to Moore River, Roelands or if they were 14 years old, simply sent out into the world and left to their own devices. The influence of the child artists of the Carrolup Native Settlement in the 1940s has resonated through the work of many Noongar artists. Reynold Hart and Jimmy Dabb were children of Carrolup who developed their painting style in the years following their departure from the settlement, Noongar artist Philip Hansen’s was born at the Carrolup settlement and lived there with his parents until he was taken to Wandering Mission when he was nine years old. After he left the mission in his early teens, he went to South Guildford, to be with his mother. There he would sit with her and other older community members at Allawah Grove, where they created paperbark paintings with Indian ink to be sold in shops around the town. Hansen was further inspired by Perth indigenous artist King Wally, who encouraged and admired the young artist’s style. From that time he created landscapes featuring Aboriginal people and kangaroos, on both paperbark and canvas. His artistic practice became more established after he met his wife in Perth, and the sale of his paintings kept their young family going financially. Hansen and his wife (married in 1971) lived together in Perth for several years before deciding to return to the southwest region of Western Australia, where they’d grown up, to make a home in Collie.
Collie is very fortunate to have this extraordinary collection and a fabulous new art gallery in which it can be shown to inspire artists and art lovers of Collie the surrounding regions long into the future.
The Collie Collection exhibition featuring a selection of works from the collection can be seen at Collie Art Gallery 11am-5pm, Thursday to Monday from 4 September-11 October.
The Collie Collection is proudly managed by the Collie Art Gallery with assistance from the Shire of Collie.
Image credit: Black Diamond 1, Janet Chapman, watercolour on paper