The exhibition, ‘An Historical Novel’ is subtitled (An Archive of Found Histories), and this refers to the importance of the research and creative sleuthing involved in this show. From the vast storehouse of archival material found at the NSW State Library (where I am currently artist-in-residence), as well as other institutions I have put together an ‘alternative’ history of some of the works collected by Howard Hinton over his lifetime and held here at the New England Regional Art Museum.
Although at times, irreverent, the works of the Hinton Collection I’ve referenced, represents a deep respect and affection for the man and his insight, vision and humanity. His collecting habits were not an even and dispassionate curatorial exercise but a heartfelt response to the paintings and processes that made them. He bought works by artists he’d come to know and whose painting he admired and sometimes simply because the artist may have needed the money. His sensibility was of the late 19th Century and Modernism was of less interest to him. R.H. Goddard in the Foreword to his book “A Memorial Volume to Howard Hinton, Patron of Art” said “Although Hinton bought generously, his patronage was free from any condescension. His discernment of latent talent in the young was keen”.
This show is a sort of paean to mainly Australian artists of this period and with apologises all round, an attempt to look at these paintings with a contemporary eye.
There is a particular poignancy and grace in reproducing works painted decades or even a hundred years ago. There is a sense of the continuity of the creative act and the artist’s gaze. It can even be an empathetic experience with the subject of that gaze and a sharing of that intensely observed subject with an individual long dead.
This sense of the continuity of experience that cuts through the intellectual divisions of fine art history is an important motivator. It may be seen as a conceit and I certainly don’t pretend to speak for these artists but I suspect that for some of them at least, this visual and textural reappraisal would be looked upon with a sympathetic eye – Streeton for his concern for the environment, Conder for his humour and visual jokes, Fred Leist for his historical fantasies and Maud Sherwood for her tenacity.
This exhibition has been challenging and enormously enjoyable at the same time and with the effort of research assistant, Pru Smith has been a fulfilling experience. I’d like to thank the New England Regional Art Museum for hosting this exhibition and the staff and volunteers who have over the years maintained this extraordinary legacy of the Howard Hinton Collection.
Hadyn Wilson, 2019