Q & A with ValueMyStuff's Australian art expert

ValueMyStuff sat down with our Australian art specialist, Tim Pitcher for a Q&A. Learn more about why Tim continues to enjoy Australian art and get insight into a specialist's valuation.

Could you tell us about your background in art and what led you to become an expert in Australian art?

Art and Antiques are in the blood as two of my Grandparents were professional artists and we have ancestors who were antiquarian booksellers as well as a link to John Sotheby who’s Uncle founded Sotheby’s and who gave his name to the famous Auction House. I had spent my first three years working in a High Street bank and moved up to a Merchant Bank in the City at the beginning of 1980 where I quickly decided life in the banking world was not for me and certainly not what I wanted to do for the whole of my working life. My elder brother worked for Christies at the time and I used to meet him and his colleagues after work and soon realised that the art world was where I wanted to be. I applied for a job at Sotheby’s and kissed goodbye to my career in the City of London. I have never regretted my decision for one second and have been lucky to have worked in one of the most famous Auction Houses in the world. I moved between various specialist Departments at Sotheby’s from 1980- 1996 but in January of that year, I noticed an internal memo advertising for a specialist to work in Sotheby’s Melbourne Office as a valuer and auctioneer. My twin brother had married an Australian and emigrated to Melbourne ten years earlier and I felt this was an ideal opportunity to spend a bit of time with him. My plan was always to come back to the UK after a couple of years, but I met my Australian wife shortly after my arrival and was happy to stay. I remained with Sotheby’s in Melbourne until 2004 when I was headhunted away from the auction world to open an office in Melbourne for the top independent valuation company in Australia, McWilliam & Associates. The timing was perfect and I have thoroughly enjoyed my change of direction. McWilliam have an amazing reputation here and we cover the whole of Australia from our Offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Australian art is split up in Aboriginal, Colonial, and Modern & Contemporary art. Can you tell us a bit more about the developments in Australian Art?

Obviously being a relatively young country, only discovered in 1788, the development of art here has needed to follow the path trodden by the rest of the Western world. In fact the earliest Colonial artists to flourish here in Australia had often already made a name for themselves in other countries, two examples being John Glover, famous for his oils of the Lake District, and Eugene von Guerard who came from an artistic family in Austria and was lured out to Australia by the Gold Rush of the 1850’s although luckily for the art world, he never made his fortune in gold. Following the early Colonial were the Impressionsists, many of whom had travelled and studied in Europe and were heavily influenced by the style of the French Impressionsists and their move from traditional academic art to the more progressive international art movements of plein-air painting, Aestheticism and Symbolism. The 20th Century heralded new styles and artists who used the unique landscape and climate here in Australia and mixed them with modern techniques and styles. Most notable in this area are the Indigenous artists who even today use natural earth pigments to bring a realism and style to their artworks.

What are your favourite museums and/or galleries to experience Australian art?

Australia is very fortunate to have international quality institutions in every major City, the most notable being the National Gallery in Canberra and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne. The NGV has benefited over many years from the Felton Bequest. Alfred Felton’s legacy has transformed the NGV into one of the most lavishly endowed public galleries in the world and in the century since his death, about 15,000 works of art have been bought with the bequest, valued at more than $1 billion, including works by Rembrandt, William Blake, Tiepolo, Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh and Turner to name but a handful.

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