Archibald Prize: Geelong Gallery to 10 December 2017

27 October 2017

Post #9 – By Rusty

Jules François Archibald – The Archibald Prize benefactor

The Archibald Prize 2017 at the Geelong Gallery from 28 October to 10 December 2017.

I was at the members preview on 27 October. It was a well-attended event with the gallery offering two sessions on that day due to demand. The sponsors were given a less public showing.

The usual amount of controversy that goes with the Archibald has surrounded it again this year. I don’t profess to have the detailed knowledge of art like the Director, Jason Smith, but I know what I like and don’t like. It has been six years since I attended an Archibald and last time agreed with the “packers” prize. I was also fascinated on this visit to The Art Gallery of NSW by the two Margaret Ollie’s hanging side by side.

The 2017 collection is the 43 finalists chosen from some 822 entrants. The winner of the judge’s prize was Mitch Cairns portrait of partner Agatha Gothe-Snipe. The winner of the Sydney’s Packers Room prize was Peter Smeeth, a picture like portrait of Lisa Wilkins.

I did not agree on this occasion with The Packers. You can contribute to the Geelong visitor’s prize which will be announced soon.

Previous winners include Dobel(x3) and Whitely.

My summary of 2017 Archibald is from Suits to Fantasy (Hewson)

Geelong Gallery has done us proud to secure the touring Archibald. Geelong and the wider touring population can wander down to the transition town of Geelong and embrace this exhibition. We have the pop up café, by Steampocket Catering for you to enjoy a moment to contemplate this feast of Australia’s portrait painters.

While visiting Geelong City take the opportunity to visit several other attractions that are world class, The Geelong Library and Heritage Centre. Wander down to Corio Bay and along this northern facing bay. I feel the best part is Eastern Beach and it is then only a short stroll to the Geelong Botanical Gardens. It sound like you should stay awhile and if you do, you can tour the Bellarine Peninsula.

Who was J F Archibald?


Well, we will claim him as one of our own, ie a Geelongion. Not a true Cat, I might add, but JFA was born in Kildare, Geelong in 1856.

The family shifted to Warrnambool where he spent his formative years. He came into journalism there but was disillusioned and commenced his wandering. Doing several jobs and travelling and living in the Queensland goldfields. He lived and learnt about the true humanity.

Wandering back to Sydney and eventually setting up the “Bulletin” in joint venture with John Haynes. Later joined by William Henry Traill, this changed the editorial policy and was the formation of the “Bulletin” that continued along a very abruptly conscious of its nationalist and democratic responsibilities. The seriousness was foreshadowed from the first; and into the early 1890s it grew not only more serious, but also funnier and funnier.

JFA eventually travelled to England and was not able to join Fleet St. He did spend some time in France a love he had for French culture and why he changed his birth name. An influence that entered his Will by the bequest of the fountain in Hyde Park, Sydney.

I wonder if his chance encounter with Tom Roberts on his return from England formed his views on the Arts. JFA did support many writer’s while at the Bulletin including Henry Lawson.

JFA suffered from depression and at one time was in and out of asylums. As Sylvia Lawson points out;

“Archibald made a complete recovery; and for over eight years he led the life of a civilized ageing gentleman: a trustee of the Art Gallery, dressing well, buying paintings, entertaining generously, happy to seem a benevolent bon viveur. In fact he ate and drank little, but kept a fine table and cellar and talked food and wine energetically.”

In 1914, with some bitterness, he sold his interest in the Bulletin—now markedly more conservative. ‘The Bulletin is a clever youth’, he had said twenty years before. ‘It will become a dull old man’. He made his Will in 1916, apportioning an estate of nearly £90,000; he gave Sydney an impressive public fountain (which had to be executed by a French sculptor) and endowed an annual prize for portrait painting. He was not primarily concerned with encouraging young artists; what he wanted was an Australian pantheon, for he believed that portraiture captured character enduringly; and could not have known that portraiture per se was to occupy a very small place in the concerns of modern painting.

Hence we have today The Archibald Prize still running some nearly one hundred (100) years after JFA’s death.

Join the Gallery
I urge all people to join the Geelong Gallery as there is a real excitement and a time of great enthusiasm by the board, the staff and of course the wonderful volunteers. The Gallery roped in some ninety (90) people to assist with this exhibition over the next six weeks. As it only closed in Sydney last week the team have been busy including unpacking and close inspection of the art. Support for this event has been large and the full list appears on the Gallery site.

Geelong Gallery
Lt Malop St, Geelong

An interview with the Geelong Gallery Deputy Director, Penny Whitehead, is available at

Sylvia Lawson
This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969
Jules François Archibald, by Australian News and Information Bureau, c1910

Post #9 – 27/10/17

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