JIM’S PICNIC, 1975

The Gould Collection of Important Australian Art
Sydney
15 March 2017
19

ROSALIE GASCOIGNE

(1917 – 1999)
JIM’S PICNIC, 1975

printed cut-out cardboard shapes (Arnott's logos), glass bottles, dried (rye) grass, wire netting, weathered timber

44.0 x 75.0 x 22.0 cm

signed with initials and dated at base: R.G. ‘76

Estimate: 
$40,000 – 60,000
Sold for $46,360 (inc. BP) in Auction 47 - 15 March 2017, Sydney
Provenance

James Mollison, Melbourne, acquired from the artist in 1976
Niagara Galleries, Melbourne
The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired from the above in April 2006 (label attached verso)
Bonhams, Sydney, 26 June 2013, lot 25
Gould collection, Melbourne

Exhibited

Rosalie Gascoigne: Assemblage, Gallery A, Sydney, 11 September 1976, cat. 25
Survey 2: Rosalie Gascoigne, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 29 April – 4 June 1978, cat. 2
Rosalie Gascoigne, City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand, 22 February – 16 May 2004
Blue Chip VIII: the collectors' exhibition, Niagara Galleries, Melbourne, 7 March – 1 April 2006, cat. 1, p. 5 (illus. and cover exhibition catalogue)

Literature

Lindsay, R., Survey 2: Rosalie Gascoigne, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1978, pp. 2, 5 (illus.), 6
Kirk, M., ‘Different Means to Similar Ends: Rosalie Gascoigne and Agnes Martin’, Art and Australia, Sydney, vol. 23, no. 4, Winter 1986, p. 513
Edquist, H., ‘Material Matters – the Landscapes of Rosalie Gascoigne’, Binocular, Sydney, no. 3, 1993, p. 1
MacDonald, V., Rosalie Gascoigne, Regaro, Sydney, 1998, p. 106
Eagle, M., From the Studio of Rosalie Gascoigne, Australian National University, Canberra, 2000, pp. 30 – 31 (illus.)
Rosalie Gascoigne: plain air, City Gallery Wellington and Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2004, p. 22 (illus.)

Catalogue text

Jim’s Picnic, 1975, like many great artworks, was born of a perfect storm of personal artistic evolution and national cultural circumstance. Newly arrived in the nascent suburb of Deakin, in the Australian Capital Territory, Rosalie Gascoigne embarked on an Ikebana from the modern Sogetsu School. For Gascoigne, this disciplined artistic practice gave purpose and direction to her habitual hunting and gathering within the southern tablelands.1 The aesthetic rigour of Ikebana also endowed Gascoigne with a greater sense of confidence in her artistic ability and identity, and this was in turn a crucial impetus for her involvement in the Canberran art scene. In 1969, Gascoigne’s eldest son, Martin, introduced her to James ‘Jim’ Mollison, who had recently arrived in the capital to assist with the development of the national art collection, under the political tutelage of Gough Whitlam. This initial encounter expanded the artist’s social circle of art-minded people to include those who would later champion her in the upper echelons of cultural governance.2 James Mollison and Gascoigne began a close friendship akin to mentorship, allowing the artist to enjoy unfettered access to the warehouse in Fyshwick storing contemporary acquisitions for the burgeoning Australian National Gallery.

A rare instance within Gascoigne’s oeuvre of direct inspiration from a significant life event, Jim’s Picnic is an assemblage commemorating a bucolic escapade organised by Mollison for an international artistic delegation on the 16 April 1975, fitted into the schedule of their tour in the ACT for the Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse exhibition at the Australian National Gallery, Canberra.3 This luncheon was a noteworthy moment for the artist, one of only a few locals to be invited to the gathering of significant patrons, but also for the members of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, who had yet to glimpse the famed Australian bush, as they were to experience at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The artist spoke of this artwork in a lecture at the Canberra School of Art in 1985:

‘This one is called Jim’s Picnic. It was about a picnic and it was meant to be impractical, it was a windy day on top of a mountain. The wire netting I have used is a pretty sort of netting. It gives a good visual reading; in feel, it is mountain air. I was enclosing air with those spaces. The grass stuck in the bottles is as ephemeral as you can get, and it was to show this awful – it wasn’t awful, it was a marvellous impractical picnic with the clouds coming over, the kangaroos hopping up and down. The kangaroos are the parrots, if you can bear the transition, but that was the life element in it and it was to capture the actual event. What are the parrots made of? You haven’t been in the supermarket lately. You can get as many parrots as the kind girls in the check-out will let you by taking the Arnott’s boxes. They haven’t got the variety they used to have. You used to be able to get blue ones and red ones and I have had a great store of them and for me they’re almost the animal in the landscape as Ned Kelly is to Nolan. I used them a lot.’

Jim’s Picnic is a delicate sculpture that encapsulates key aspects of Gascoigne’s artistic practice: the use of found objects to translate visual and cultural realities, the impetus to capture ephemeral meteorological phenomena, and the self-assured arrangement of these items into an aesthetic composition. Exhibited in Gascoigne’s first solo exhibition at Gallery A, Sydney, in 1976, Jim’s Picnic was purchased by James Mollison, for whom it was named, and remained within his personal collection throughout his tenure as Director of the Australian National Gallery and the National Gallery of Victoria.

1. Gellatly, K., ‘Rosalie Gascoigne: Making Poetry of the Commonplace’, Rosalie Gascoigne, Council of Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, 2009, pp. 12 – 13
2. Gellatly, K., op. cit., p. 24
3. Correspondence between Martin Gascoigne and Deutscher and Hackett, February 2017

LUCIE REEVES-SMITH