"Berry's Bay, Sydney" by Roy de Maistre. Art Gallery of South Australia.
© Caroline de Mestre Walker
"Berry's Bay, Sydney" by Roy de Maistre. Art Gallery of South Australia. © Caroline de Mestre Walker
14 July 2009

A forgotten Australian art movement will receive the attention it deserves when a new exhibition opens at the UQ Art Museum on July 17.

Misty Moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915-1950 is the first exhibition of its kind and illustrates the inter-war art movement that was championed by controversial Melbourne painter Max Meldrum.

“Tonalism is probably the most misunderstood, underestimated and underappreciated movement in Australian art history and yet it was hugely important to the development of 20th century art in this country,” exhibition curator Tracey Lock-Weir said.

“Max Meldrum was a pioneer but he was also terribly divisive. There was a certain stigma attached to him and his followers which still remains today…even some of the most beautiful Tonalist paintings have often been ignored or dismissed by the art world – until now.”

Paintings from this period are characterised by a particular “misty” or atmospheric quality created by the method of building “tone on tone”.

Around 80 works by 18 artists have been brought together from public and private collections around Australia for the first time for Misty Moderns. Included in the exhibition are works by Meldrum and his best-known pupils Clarice Beckett, Percy Leason and Colin Colahan. Pieces by Australian Modernists Roy de Maistre, Roland Wakelin, Lloyd Rees, Arnold Shore and William Frater are also included.

Controversially, Tonalism opposed post-Impressionism and Modernism, and is now regarded as a precursor to Minimalism and Conceptualism.

UQ Art Museum Director Nick Mitzevich said the exhibition was a change of pace from recent shows and represented the diversity of the 2009 program and the museum's growing visitor base.

"Recently, Margaret Olley: Life's journey and Selling Queensland have been extremely popular exhibitions and the Ben Quilty exhibition attracted a large schools audience," Mr Mitzevich said.

"Following on from this we expect Misty Moderns to appeal to people and students interested in the development of Australian Art history."

Ms Lock-Weir will officially open Misty Moderns at the UQ Art Museum before it goes on show to the public from July 17 to September 13.

Misty Moderns is an Art Gallery of South Australia touring exhibition made possible with the support of Visions of Australia, an Australian Government program which supports touring exhibitions.

The UQ Art Museum is open from 10-4pm seven days a week, with parking free on weekends.

Media: UQ Art Museum Director Nick Mitzevich (0434 361 383, 07 3365 3046, n.mitzevich@uq.edu.au) or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)

** High resolution media images can be downloaded from here