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FELTON BEQUEST

 

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On January 8 1904 Businessman Alfred Felton died leaving a bequest of 190,000 pounds ($40 million in today's money), with half the interest earned to be used to buy works for the gallery. Living in a modest bedroom in St Kilda's Esplanade Hotel his enormous bequest made the National Gallery of Victoria one of the most richly endowed Galleries in the British Empire. Born in England in 1831 Felton arrived in Melbourne in 1853 and accumulated his fortune as a merchant and a pharmaceutical manufacturer. He created a bottle works which is still here today as ACI, and also bought rural properties.
His Bequest enabled the National Gallery to build a comprehensive collection before art prices spiraled in the late 1950's, since his death over 15,000 works of art valued at over $1 billion have been purchased including works by Rembrandt, Willima Blake, Tiepolo, Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Turner and more.

 

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Felton's Bequest enabled the National Gallery to build a comprehensive collection before art prices spiraled in the late 1950's, since his death over 15,000 works of art valued at over $1 billion have been purchased including works by Rembrandt, Willima Blake, Tiepolo, Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Turner and more.

Aquisitions include:
Pissarro: Boulevard Montmartre 1897 in 1905
Monet: Rough weather at Etretat 1888 in 1913
Sisley: Straw Ricks 1891 in 1913
Corot: The Bent Tree c 1855-1860 in 1907
Fredric Mc CUBBIN: The Pioneer in 1906
Norman MacGeorge: Mother of Pearl in 1907
Hans HEYSEN: Sunshine and Shadow in 1908
Hans HEYSEN: A Lod of the Bush
Hans HEYSEN: Midsummer Morning
Arthur STREETON: Sydney Harbour in 1912
Blamire: Young: Winter's Grey Mantle c1912
Fredric Mc CUBBIN: Lost
Clara Southern: The old bee farm c1900
 

These Australian works of art are now displayed at the New Ian Potter Centre,
National Gallery of Victoria, Federation Square

John Poynter - an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Australia Centre at the University of Melbourne, has just written a book about Alfred Felton -
Mr Felton's Bequest - published by Melbourne University Press

The Felton Bequest is the most important benefaction in Australian art history, and this book details the life of Alfred Felton, an English merchant who lived in Melbourne during the 19th century and was an enormously successful businessman running the wholesale drugstore Felton, Grimwade & Co. during the gold rush. Detailed is how his bequests committee successfully doled out the inheritance to artistic and charitable organizations, despite the contentious public debate over what sorts of art works should be acquired for Melbourne's gallery. Primary sources including Felton's personal writings and the files from the bequests committee document the drama.


'a superb book . . . what the NGV failed to buy and the reasons for its acquisitions over the past 99 years make gripping reading in Poynter's book.'
Herald Sun - 21/11/2003

'In the magisterial biography Mr Felton's Bequests by John Poynter, Felton, the remarkable bachelor and visionary, is presented in comprehensive detail. A monumental study of an eccentric, generous and charitable man.'
Sydney Morning Herald - Favourite Reads of the Year 2003 lists, 6-7/12/2003

About the Author
John Poynter is an honorary professorial fellow in the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne. He is a former Ernest Scott professor of history and a deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne. He is the author of a biography of Russell Grimwade.

 

Artists Camp Sirius Cove
1899
original is on Canvas and is in the
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest 1943
PICTURESTORE
Arbour
1910
original is in the
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest
Pioneers
1904
original is in the
National Gallery of Victoria
Purchased by the Felton Bequest
PICTURESTORE
Golden Fleece Shearing
original is oil on canvas lined onto board and is in the
National Gallery of Victoria
Felton Bequest 1932
PICTURESTORE

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