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By Sharne Wolff
Philanthropist Neil Balnaves moved to Mosman in the 1970s. He’s proud of Mosman’s social history and its sense of community. Balnaves is also a keen advocate that for those who can afford it, more Australians should become part of a growing ‘culture of giving’. If you travelled to the Biennale of Sydney on one of the ferries to Cockatoo Island your fare was free thanks to The Balnaves Foundation. The Balnaves Gift is another example of Balnaves’s altruism.
The Balnaves Gift is a donation of sixteen Australian Impressionist and early twentieth century artworks significant to the Mosman area. Around the late nineteenth century, artists camps modelled on those in France and Britain were set up in areas like Sirius Cove (just below Taronga Zoo), Balmoral and Cremorne as Sydney artists began to paint en plein air like those of Victoria’s Heidelberg school. Modernists like Margaret Preston, who lived in Mosman for many years, came afterwards. All paintings in this exhibition are part of the donation and are originally from Balnaves’ private collection. They include works by many significant Australian artists such as Arthur Streeton, Conrad Martens, Will Ashton, Henry Fullwood, Elioth Gruner, George Halstead, James Ranalph Jackson, Matthew Charles Meere, Adelaide Elizabeth Perry, Sydney Long, Ethel Carrick Fox and Margaret Preston.
Balnaves says he never really connected with art when he was a kid. Bouts of childhood polio and long-term stays in hospital gave him much time to think. He hopes that with its focus on education, the Balnaves Foundation is able to spend its funds to open minds, particularly those of young people, to art and culture.
Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman
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