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Favourites from the Cowen Gallery

20 August 2020

Watch Access All Areas: Favourites from the Cowen Gallery

The thread connecting each picture in our collection is that it tells a story about Victoria, and the Cowen Gallery is home to a permanent selection of some of these works.

Join Kate Torney as she shares the stories behind three paintings in the Cowen Gallery, all linked by the theme of fire:

Discover more about these pictures in the Cowen Gallery

  • Molly Tjami was born in 1944 in Mintabie, on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in north-western SA. She was associated with the Mimili Maku Arts centre in 2009 when she painted 'a bush fire that is burning our land. When I painted this painting I was thinking about the Victoria bush fires in February 2009. I was sad when hearing about all the people who had lost their houses and people that had died or been hurt by these fires.' This painting, Waru, was gifted to the Library in 2011.
  • Strutt's Black Thursday was his masterwork. Its sheer size and instructional content made it more suitable to a public collection than than a domestic setting, but it took nearly 100 years for the painting to find a home in the State collection. Read about how Black Thursday, Strutt's 'itinerant picture' came to the walls of the Cowen Gallery.
  • Explore the rich content of our Heroes and villains exhibition (held in 2016), showcasing William Strutt's artistry and his vision of Australia. 
  • Prints, paintings, postcards, ephemera ... you name the format, it's in our Pictures collection. Find out more about our Pictures collection and use our handy research guide to help find images.
  • Our reference librarians have received inquiries about the connection between Juan Davila's painting and the Black Saturday fires. Our librarians say that Davila's painting actually depicts an earlier, smaller fire but it's easy to get confused, because Churchill National Park (Rowville) is 130km from Churchill (Gippsland), which was devastated by Black Saturday. 
  • A collection of 63 sketchbooks by Juan Davila, dating from 1978 to 2009, is held in our Manuscripts collection. These contain sketches, notes, drawings and ephemera including photos of his home and friends, and correspondence. Read librarian Olga Tsara's article on how the sketchbook collection reveals the evolution of Davila's style.

About Access All Areas

In this video series, join former CEO Kate Torney for exclusive insights into her most cherished collection items, spaces (including some that even staff can't access!), legends and legacies at State Library Victoria.

Find out more and view all episodes.