Hamilton Gallery was established in 1961 following a large bequest of an outstanding collection of art works left to the City of Hamilton by Herbert Buchanan Shaw (1882-1957). This generous bequest of 781 items reflects the collecting interests of Herbert and his wife May who lived at 'Kiama', a homestead near Hamilton. The Shaw Bequest consisted mainly of 18th and 19th century English and European decorative arts and was the beginnings of Hamilton's collection that is today vast, fascinating, diverse and unique.
Since 1961 Hamilton's collection has grown to over 9000 objects and now includes silver, porcelain and glass from 1700 onwards, a collection of 18th century landscapes by Paul Sandby, Asian ceramics from the major dynasties, European and Australian prints, Australian oil paintings and watercolours and fine international examples of 20th century decorative arts. The Gallery's collection continues to expand with the purchase of new acquisitions every year.
The Gallery actively collects Australian art, works on paper and contemporary decorative arts. Hamilton Gallery presents a high quality program that features some of the finest exhibitions touring Australia, exhibitions from the vast permanent collection and work by local artists.
The Shaw Bequest includes examples of 18th and 19th century English and European silver, glass, porcelain, an extensive range of Oriental ceramics and hard stone carvings. The bequest also contains Roman glass and early Mediterranean artefacts, a tapestry from the early 1700s, 'The Triumphal Entry of Alexander into Babylon', designed by Charles le Brun(1619-1690), a 16th century Chinese-Tibetan bronze Buddha, English 19th century watercolours including a Bonington wash drawing, a few pieces of furniture, a drawing by Adrien Manglard, Australian paintings by Hans Heysen, Will Ashton, Frederick McCubbin, Septimus Power and a James Quinn portrait of May Shaw.
In 1972, the State Government of Victoria purchased for the Gallery a large collection of works by Paul Sandby (1731-1809), known as The Father of English Watercolour. A first floor was then added to accommodate a rapidly growing collection. The Sandby collection of 29 watercolours and 74 etchings was purchased from C.C.L. Gaussen and Lady Mary Gaussen of 'Gringegalgona', a homestead near Hamilton. Sandby was a foundation member of the Royal Academy and the earliest English artist of note to exploit the media of watercolour and gouache. He was also a fine etcher, a great innovator and the art of aquatint printing was developed in England largely as a result of his early enthusiasm for this technique.
Hamilton's large collection of Sandby's charming 18th century English landscapes is unrivalled in Australia. Still in their original frames they are on permanent display in the Gaussen Gallery, an elegant recreation of an English drawing room.
Hamilton Gallery is noted for its rich, diverse, historic and contemporary collections of fine and decorative arts featured in six modern galleries.
April 10 1958
Hamilton City Council publicly announces that it has accepted the bequest of Mr. Herbert Shaw which it describes as 'the magnificent bequest made to the City by the late Mr Herbert Shaw.'
August 24 1960
Foundation stone laid
July 10 1961
John Ashworth appointed inaugural Director
October 22 1961
Official opening by Deputy Premier and Chief Secretary of Victoria, Sir Arthur Rylah
July 26 1962
Foundation of the Hamilton Gallery Trust Fund
The new City of Hamilton Gallery Society (currently Friends of Hamilton Gallery) formed
December 17 1971 1970
Paul Sandby Collection purchased
May 25 1973
Gallery extensions (including first floor) officially opened by the Premier Mr Rupert Hamer
May 22 1975
Mr Julian Faigan commenced as Director
April 18 1985
Mr Alan Sisley appointed as Director
July 26 1988
Mr Daniel McOwan appointed as Director
The 50th Anniversary of the Herbert and May Shaw bequest
The 50th Anniversary of the Hamilton Gallery
October 27 2015
Sarah Schmidt appointed as Director