Exhibitions of works by James R. Jackson

Exhibitions of Paintings by James R. Jackson

7 December 20102 to 27 January 2013: 'Early Impressions: James R. Jackson (1882 - 1975)', Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Manly/Sydney

Essay from 'Early Impressions: James R. Jackson (1882 - 1975)' 7/12/20102 to 27/01/2013, Manly Art Gallery & Museum

MAGAM_catalogue_coverThe spark that inspired this focus exhibition was the painting that launched an art gallery: Middle Harbour from Manly Heights, painted in 1923 by James Ranalph Jackson. So concerned about the future of the work was the local art community that they contacted Manly’s Mayor, stating, ‘it would be a distinct loss and almost a catastrophy (sic) if the prize winning picture … should pass out of the district of Manly …’

The one hundred pounds to secure the painting was raised by public subscription by October 1924, making it the first painting for the collection of the yet to be established Manly Art Gallery.

Today, we are mostly familiar with Jackson’s later paintings of Sydney Harbour. The paintings he created up to the 1920s are rarely on display however, and probably unknown to most art observers. We believe these early works are his best and wanted to bring them together to help re-evaluate an outstanding impressionist artist whose early talent has been largely forgotten.

The works in this exhibition have been brought together from far and wide: state and regional public collections and several private collectors from New South Wales and Victoria have graciously agreed to contribute their works to this exhibition.

Jackson’s paintings were amongst the first in at least two other regional galleries: Director Peter Perry has just discovered that Reflections, 1916, was the first purchase of the Castlemaine Art Gallery. Artist John Salvana (1865 – 1943) donated Pathway to the Sea, 1917, together with 75 other artworks, to Tamworth in 1919 so the town could establish a public gallery; he had acquired the painting from the Royal Art Society exhibition in 1917. Both works were allowed to travel from their permanent homes to feature prominently in this exhibition.

These facts illustrate that a considerable number of public art institutions were purchasing the works of this contemporary emerging Australian artist at a time when they were fresh and new.

Jackson was to draw his inspiration from one of his childhood impressions: Sydney Harbour, which first inspired an eight year old Jimmy in 1890, when the Jackson family – father George Albert with his eleven children – moved from New Zealand to Darlinghurst after the mother’s death.

From a young age Jackson loved to draw and so was apprenticed to a city decorator. In an interview with Hazel de Berg in 1965 he recalled that ‘they employed these semi-artists to end work decorations in the room … I am scribbling on one of the walls. And the fellow came in and said, look Jimmy, you have some fun drawing and scribbling around, so why don’t you take lessons?’

Soon after Jackson attended evening classes with Frank Mahony (1862 – 1916) and later on studied with the Royal Art Society. As many artists aspired to then (and now), Jackson hoped to study in Europe and learn from the masters there, both by taking lessons and studying the works of the greats in European art galleries.


But first, he wanted to study in Melbourne with Bernard Hall (1859 – 1935), Director of the National Gallery of Victoria and head of its art school. Frederick McCubbin (1855 – 1917) saw Jackson’s paintings in Melbourne and encouraged the young artist.

However Hall had no time, and after three weeks an impatient Jackson returned to Sydney, determined to go at once to London. He managed to get a very cheap passage via New Zealand and Cape Horn (Bertram Stevens, Art in Australia number 3, 1917).
Curators' talk at the exhibition

The year was 1906, and by sheer luck Jackson immediately secured a place to study at Frank Brangwyn’s (1867 – 1956) Hammersmith studio, where he learnt the fundamentals of painting, the use of impasto and the importance of colours. Jackson remembers: ‘… [Brangwyn] put me right on how to get colour and tone and he was very proud of it’.

However, London was expensive even then, and Jackson continues: ‘My money was running short and I thought that it was very much cheaper to live in Paris. So I went over to Paris. I joined up with the Academy Colarossi …’ (de Berg interview)

The year then spent in continental Europe in 1907 proved to be pivotal for the 25 year old Jackson. The light in the works of Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) and Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883) impressed him. However it was the battle scenes of Algiers by Aimé Morot (1850 – 1913), with their brilliant sunlight so reminiscent of Australia, that for Jackson left a deeper mark. In Paris, he also saw, ‘… the fine open-air paintings of Emanuel Phillips-Fox, some of whose work he had seen in Sydney, and they had a more pronounced influence upon him than any other’. (Stevens).

James R JacksonJRJ_show_2012_Sydney_Harbour

Early Impressions Exhibition: Images of Europe and Sydney Harbour

Several works in this exhibition created in that year convey the artist’s burst of youthful energy: Passeo Pollenza, Spain (New England Regional Art Museum), Bridge at Chiogga, Venice, (National Gallery of Victoria) and Canal Brescon, Martigues, France, (Benalla Art Gallery). It was in Martigues that Jackson met Augustus John (1878 – 1961) who also complimented him on his work (de Berg interview).

Europe, and in particular, Venice worked its magic on Jackson as it had on other Australian artists: Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Emanuel Phillips-Fox and Ethel Carrick Fox.

Jackson put his European experience in perspective: ‘Go, but do not stay … What I saw of Australian artists’ work in England, made me feel that though they had gained in technique, they had lost in spontaneity and emotional value. On my return to Australia I went to look again at Streeton’s Purple Noon’s Transparent Might. I thought it better than the great majority of modern landscapes I had seen in London or Paris …’ (Stevens).

Jackson also greatly admired Tom Roberts, whom he met and described as ‘… an extremely simple, kind and resourceful type of fella, and very proud and very lenient towards any other painters …’

The influence of such iconic Australian impressionist artists’ work is certainly visible in Jackson’s work after his return to Australia in 1908. One example may be North Harbour, dating from the same year and lent by a private collection for this exhibition.

Nellie Melba noteJackson joined the Royal Art Society of New South Wales in 1908. In the same year he exhibited for the first time in an RAS group show – and immediately found a celebrity admirer as he recalls in the de Berg interview: ‘My first patron of the arts was Madam Melba … After that the Sydney Gallery bought, then Melbourne, New Zealand, and the National Gallery of America. I have many pictures in America, and England, London, Scotland …’

Note from Dame Nellie Melba to Jackson, 8 August 1921

This artistic and commercial success is also documented in numerous newspaper reports. An early example from The Sydney Morning Herald of 14 November 1914 reads: ‘Oleanders … is the principal contribution made by this painter to this year’s show, and is probably the best work he has painted.’ The Art Gallery of NSW bought the painting for 150 guineas, as the paper reported on 8 November 1914. It is the largest painting in this exhibition, and perhaps the largest work Jackson ever painted.

It may be that this work also marked the beginning of a series of genre paintings featuring young women: Lady with parasol, 1914, Morning in the studio, 1915, or After the rehearsal, 1917.

The only portrait of a known sitter in this exhibition however is Dora with parasol, 1917, of his future wife Dora Toovey (1898 – 1986), an artist in her own right.


Early Impressions Exhibition: Portraits and Sydney's Northern Beaches

From the same period originated the leisurely scenes of ladies boating, often with a protective parasol: The holiday, and The dreamer, both from 1916; The pathway to the sea, 1917, Boating, 1918, and Lady with parasol and boating party, 1916. These figurative paintings evoke works by other great Australian painters of a leisurely, elegant world that was now rapidly disappearing: Emanuel Phillips-Fox, Rupert Bunny, Charles Conder and Tom Roberts.

‘ … [In] London, I felt that the artists had a very difficult time due to the fog, and the light is not very good. But in Australia it’s fascinating, and the light and the colour and a beautiful sunlight which is an essence of an artist light actually.  … It’s very brilliant and very difficult, and I feel that of all the countries (and I have been to quite a number) I would like to live in, is Australia. I feel that Australia has a great opportunity for being a very fine artist’s country.’

The young Dora Toovey was studying painting with Jackson; they fell in love and were married in 1924. The couple embarked on a trip to Europe in 1926, travelling through France, Italy and Switzerland, Paris and London, the Pyrenees and Spain. They returned to Sydney in 1928, and both exhibited works from this inspirational journey. Jackson’s paintings again were reviewed favourably in the local media.

The works in this exhibition demonstrate how beautifully the early career Jackson handled light and shade. His impressionist colour palette with soft blues and greens sets off the effects of light reflected on gently moving water. The composition – from the European landscapes to the Venetian boat scenes and the Sydney Harbour impressions – pulls these elements together to make them stand-out paintings in his oeuvre.

The very fact that public institutions acquired so many of Jackson’s early works proves there was a real appreciation of his work. They only rarely become available today to private collectors, but when they do, they are highly sought-after, not just because of their scarcity, but also because of their inherent quality.

Jackson held his first solo exhibition in 1920 at the Gayfield Shaw Art Salon, and continued to exhibit in group exhibitions until the 1960s. From 1916 to 1933, Jackson exhibited also in Melbourne on a regular basis as a member of the Australian Art Association, gathering a loyal following there, too. Jackson became an art educator himself, teaching drawing and painting at the RAS from 1917 to 1926. Several landscapes from this period are represented in this exhibition, amongst them Beach scene, North Narrabeen, 1926, North Harbour, 1927, or View to Cockatoo Island, 1929.

Jackson was an Australian painter of light, as he told Hazel de Berg:

We hope that you enjoy this unique opportunity to get to know works that are rarely seen and have been assembled together for the first time. And we hope that you agree that James R. Jackson’s early paintings deserve greater recognition and scholarly attention.

Essay Copyright Manly Art Gallery & Museum and Brigitte Banziger and David Hulme, reproduced with permission

Lou Klepac opening James RLou Klepac's opening address on 7 December 2012 of Early Impressions - James R. Jackson

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to have been asked to open this impo1iant exhibition. It is most appropriate for the Manly Gallery to recognise the importance of this, today , neglected artist - the Gallery owes it to him, in a way. It was his painting 'Middle Harbour from Manly heights' painted in 1923  which won the inaugural Manly Prize in 1924  which inspired the local community to want to acquire the work -  in order that it should be the first painting in the collection of a yet to be established Manly Art Gallery.

I urge you to read the catalogue introduction to find out this and a lot more about this diminutive painter - he was 5 foot 3, and one of the finest landscape painters active in Sydney in the first decades of the 20th century.

Lou Klepac opening the exhibition, 7 December 2012

There is a book on his work written by his daughter, published by Bay Books in 1991 where you can find all you need to know about him and see the full range of his activity .

What I want to consider tonight is why he has been neglected in the recent past. He is not the only artist to suffer neglect, but he was an exceptionally gifted painter and the lack of public interest has made me consider the reason why .

Last night I had a look at artprice .com to see what paintings by Jackson had passed through the auctions and what prices they had fetched during the last 12 months.

It  is an indictment of our art loving public that such fine works have sold for a fraction of the price of an etching by Fred Williams .

Jackson's problem was that being born in 1882 (a year after Picasso) he was 20 years too late for the kind of gift that he had as a painter. And it might also have been better if he had been born 20 years later.

At an earlier date, he would have been the contemporary of Streeton and Conder and would have been right there in the period when artists were fired with visual nationalism, the spirit that inspired the Heidelberg  School.

If born later, he would have been more prone to take note of the work of a painter like Cezanne. Today, Robert Johnson, who is a very fine painter, is dismissed whereas Wakelin who with Roy de Maistre made all those experiments about music and colour has a good foothold in  the history of Australian painting - though he was certainly much less gifted as a painter than Jackson. Both lived to a ripe old age

Godfrey Miller, interested in theosophy and mysticism left a meticulous and original vision as well as a legend about his solitary lifestyle and is highly revered.

The 20th century has been obsessed with the idea of modernism. There is hardly a book that does not talk about this concept - and everything is measured against it. The fact that modernism has continued to dominate our views of art has distorted the true nature of art, and is responsible for the neglect of many fine painters.

Eventually, and here we are in the 21st century, we will need to redress the wrongs done to some artists in the cause of modernism. It is time for reparation. Modernism is no longer a relevant gauge with which to go and measure the achievement of painters. So thank you to the Manly Art Gallery and the curators who have put together this exhibition.

The only good thing I can say about this is that it is possible for someone with an unprejudiced eye, to acquire paintings of real quality for a very reasonable price.

If you consider a painting like 'The Old Road, South Coast' 1934 which is equal in quality to some of Lloyd Rees's works of the same period -you will see how neglected Jackson is, when you compare Jackson's prices to those of Lloyd Rees.

Rees, born in 1895, was 13 years younger, but when you examine a painting like Jackson's 'The Holiday' painted in 1916, this fantastic painting is superior to anything Lloyd did in the 1920s when he was the same age as Jackson.

It  is interesting to consider Jackson in relation to the group of   three other important artists who have made a significant contribution to Australian painting all of whom hailed from New Zealand.

The witty remark made by Robert Muldoon, when he was Prime Minister of New Zealand that when New Zealanders moved to Australia the IQ went up in both countries  may be true generally, but not in the case of these artists.

They are:


Roland Wakelin 1887-1971 Robert Johnson 1890-1964

Godfrey Miller 1893-1964

and the oldest of these Jackson who was born in 1882.


He came to Sydney at a much younger age, although his family, (he had a lot of siblings), lived in New Zealand. He was just 8 years old when he came to Sydney, whereas Wakelin was 25, Johnson 31 and Miller 26.

It is, however, not all the fault of modernism. One further point needs to be made. Australia is not a land where the population is really attuned to the art of painting. Our affluence has created many collectors, but many of these collectors collect by listening rather than looking.

Art has become fashionable, as drinking wine has become by people who once looked down on those who drank plonk and never looked at a painting.

There is an auction coming up on Sunday with a fine landscape by Robert Johnson expected to bring 800 to1200 dollars, and in the same auction there is a rather ugly drawing by a fashionable Melbourne artist expected to sell for 4000 to 6000 dollars. Does it make sense?

Plug your ears and use your eyes, go and enjoy the exceptional painterly quality, freshness and the delight in colour and light of these remarkable James Jackson paintings - and then get yourself a bargain at the next auction.

Essay copyright Lou Klepac and reproduced with permission


1908 Royal Art Society (until 1974)

Royal Art Society 1909 catalogue1909 March, Royal Art Society, Sydney: 9 of 69 paintings shown were by by Jackson at up to 30 guineas. Fellow exhibitors include Will Ashton and Antonio Dattilo-Rubbo

RAS_1911_Red parasol1911, 32nd annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney: The Red Parasol by Jackson was offered for 75 guineas, from a selection of 11 works.

Other exhibitors are Sidney Long, Max Meldrum, Harold Septimus Power, A.J. Daplyn and Percy Spence

The Red Parasol
, 117 x 107 cm, illustrated in the 1911 RAS exhibition catalogue

Jackson, The Crevice, RAS 19121912, August, 33rd annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney;
Jackson's painting The Crevice is illustrated

1913, August, 34th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney: Works shown alongside Will Ashton, J.J. Hilder, B.E. Minns and W. Lister Lister

1913 Canberra Art Prize finalist

RAS_1914_Oleanders1914, November, 35th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society, Sydney: The exhibition includes Oleanders, which was purchased by the Art Gallery of NSW in 1914.

Works by Tom Roberts, A.H. Fullwood, Will Ashton, Antonio Dattilo-Rubb, Charles Bryant and Fred Leist are shown.

Oleanders, 127 x 117 cm,
illustrated in the 1914 RAS exhibition catalogue

1915, October, 36th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society: 12 works by Jackson are shown, including Morning in the Studio, priced at 100 guineas, and A Summer's Morning at 200 guineas. Norman Carter, G.V.F. Mann and Charles Tindall exhibit amongst others

RAS 1916 painting 18711916, September, 37th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society:
Image of the large figurative painting 1871 by Jackson is featured

Painting '1871', 112 x 101.5 cm, illustrated in the 1916 RAS exhibition catalogue

1916 Australian Artists' War Fund

1917, September, 38th annual exhibition, Royal Art Society: Jackson exhibits alongside Ethel Carrick Fox, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Charles Conder, Elioth Gruner, Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay and Thea Proctor

RAS 1917 council members

RAS council members, 1917. James R. Jackson on left with hat

1918 Art Gallery of New South Wales Loan Exhibition

1918 Australian Arts Club Exhibition, Melbourne

1919 Australian Arts Club Exhibition, Sydney

1920 Gayfield Shaw Art Salon, Sydney: First solo exhibition

1921 Gayfield Shaw Art Salon: 2 group shows

1922 Solo exhibition at Decoration Galleries, Collins Street, Melbourne

1922 Bertram Stevens Memorial, Sydney

1923 Gift Exhibition, Farmers' Gallery, Sydney

James R Jackson London exhibition of Australian art 1923 Exhibition of Australian Art at Burlington House, London.

Jackson is represented with two works: Drying Sails and Evening, Sydney Harbour.
Other artists included David Davies, Emanuel Phillips Fox, Margaret Preston, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Hugh Ramsey, Walter Withers, Thea Proctor, Norman Lindsay, Lloyd Rees, Eliot Gruner,
Percy Lindsay, Penleigh Boyd, and many more

1923 Archibald Prize 1922 finalist, with Portrait of Hector Lamond and Portrait of Mr Cecil Hartt

1924 Empire Exhibition, London

1925 Loan Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria

1925 Anthony Hordern Gallery, Sydney, solo show

1926 May, New Gallery, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, solo show

1928 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, solo exhibition

1928 New Gallery, Melbourne, solo exhibition

1928 Anthony Hordern Gallery, Sydney, group exhibition of English and Australian artists

RAS 1929 members1929, Royal Art Society, Sydney, 50 years of Australian Art, Blaxland Galleries, Sydney

RAS members in 1919. Jackson in middle with hat

1929 Grosvenor Gallery, Sydney: Paintings of Sydney Harbour

1929 Winner State Theatre Art Quest, Sydney

1931 Wynne Prize 1930 finalist, Mount Tennant and Summer, Murrumbidgee

1932 Wynne Prize 1931 finalist, Turon River and The Barrington River

1933 Wynne Prize 1932 finalist, Gloucester from Cat Hill [sic] and The Gloucester River

1934 Centenary Art Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria

1935 Wynne Prize 1934
finalist, Old Road South Coast and The Beach, Stanwell Park

1936 Wynne Prize 1935, finalist, 4 works: Turon Hills; The Turon River; The Home of Wm. Farrar [sic], Federal Capital Territory; and Drying Sails

1936, May, Fine Art Society's Gallery, Melbourne: solo exhibition of 46 oil paintings by Jackson

1937 Wynne Prize 1936 finalist, Landscape; and Headlands, Newport

1937, June, David Jones Gallery, Melbourne: Solo exhibition of 64 paintings priced from 18 to 160 guineas

1937 Artists of the British Empire Overseas Exhibition, The Royal Institute Galleries, London

1937 Exposition International, Paris

1937 (until 1946) Australian Academy of Art group shows

1938 150 Years of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales

1938 Group of 15 Independent Artists (until 1945)

1938 Wynne Prize 1937 finalist, The Spit, Sydney

1938, July, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: Solo show with 50 paintings

1939 Wynne Prize 1938 finalist, Western Farm Land and Western Landscape

1940 Wynne Prize 1939 finalist, Evening Landscape near Canberra; and Junction of the Cotter River, F.C.

1940, September, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: Solo exhibition with 35 paintings

1941 Australian art touring North America

1941 Wynne Prize 1940 finalist, The Valley of Jugiong; and Monaro Country

1942 Wynne Prize 1941 finalist,
Landscape, Canberra

1942 George MacKay, Manly Warringah Prize finalist

1942 Sedon Galleries, Melbourne, solo exhibition

1946 Sedon Galleries, Melbourne, solo show with 50 paintings

1947 Artists Past and Present, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne

1947 Centennial Galleries, Brisbane

1949 Wynne Prize 1948 finalist, Western Landscape NSW

1949, Group Show 'Works of 12 Artists, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: alongside works by Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Hans Heysen

1950 Artists Past and Present, Sedon Galleries, Melbourne

1950 Wynne Prize 1949 finalist, Seascape and Luna Park

1951 Wynne Prize 1950 finalist, Northern Landscape, Bellingen NSW; and A Country Town

1952 Wynne Prize 1951 finalist, Old North Sydney; and Kangarooby Ranges

1954 Wynne Prize 1953 finalist, The Quarry at St. Peter's, NSW; and Autumn, Bourke NSW

1954 Moreton Galleries, Brisbane, first solo show in Queensland

1955 Wynne Prize 1954 finalist, Morning, Cotter Crossing, ACT; and Landscape, Cotter Crossing ACT

1956 Sedon Galleries, Melbourne: group show

1957 Wynne Prize 1956 finalist, Landscape, Bermagui, NSW; and Landscape, Bellingen NSW

1959 Moreton, Galleries, Brisbane, solo exhibition

1960 Winner Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales Prize

1961 Winner W.D. and H.O. Wills Prize

1961 Wynne Prize 1960 finalist, Deserted Mines, Sunny Corner NSW; and Autumn Clouds, Bellingen

1962 Wynne Prize 1961 finalist,
Central West

1962 Winner Manly Art Prize

1962 Winner Grafton Art Prize

1963 Art Gallery of New South Wales: 175th Anniversary of the Founding of Australia exhibition

1966 The Block Gallery, Melbourne, solo show

1970 The Block Gallery, Melbourne, solo show

1972 The Block Gallery, Melbourne, solo show

2012 Early Impressions - James R. Jackson, focus exhibition at Manly Art Gallery & Museum
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