Artworks invigorate College

Sidney Nolan and Lloyd Rees paintings on show

Posted by Karen Myers, Curator, on August 31, 2022

The College is the custodian of two extrordinary paintings which were gifted to it in the late 1970's. The Council Minutes of the time record that in 1978 it received 'Queensland Port' by Sidney Nolan, donated by Dr. (Annie) Mildred Mocatta. In October, 1979, the renowned Australian landscape artist Lloyd Rees presented his painting entitled 'Boats in the Bay (Lane Cove River)' to the College.

The Executive Committee Minutes of the 4th August, 1978, record that:

'the painting 'Queensland Port' by Sidney Nolan presented to the South Australian State Committee by Dr. Mildred Mocatta of Adelaide for hanging in the College, has now been received.'
Dr. Mocatta was an avid art collector and patron, having been passionate about art from an early age. Born in Sydney in 1887, Mocatta attended Woodstock, a private girls school in North Sydney, which inspired students with the importance of service to others and offered a full complement of subjects including languages, science and sport. After studying and working as a kindergarten teacher, she decided that medical science could provide knowledge and further understanding of early childhood. She studied first-year science subjects at the University of Western Australia, and next year transferred to the medical faculty at the University of Melbourne (MB, BS, 1922). After working as a Junior Medical Officer at Adelaide Parkside Mental Hospital on graduation, she resigned to set up private practice in 1925. In addition to practicing until 1961 she lived an unconventional, highly sociable life, being a fixture on the cultural scene of Adelaide. The National Trust of South Australia was recipient of her house in Hackney as well as the beneficiary of her significant art collection. Dr. Mocatta had begun to disperse her collection after she developed glaucoma in 1963 which had precluded her enjoyment of the collection.

Coincidently (or perhaps not), prior to the donation of Boats in the Bay by Rees, Dr. Mocatta had also offered a Lloyd Rees painting from her collection but the offer did not eventuate. However, the archives also record that, shortly after, the College contacted Rees seeking his recommendation as to who would be a suitable artist to recreate the scene of the vista from the College, as seen in the 1850's. Perhaps Dr. Mocatta had recommended him to the College, as in her collection she held 'quite a few Lloyd Rees.' Rees, who was unwell at the time replied that he could not suggest a name but the conversation obviously moved on from that starting point. The correspondence that I have read does not however, indicate why Rees decided to gift his painting to the College but simply records that the painting had been received. Dr. Richard Mulhearn, who was Honorary Secretary at the time seems to have been instrumental in acquiring this generous donation.

Dr. Mulhearn visited the Rees home in 1979 and reportedly sat on the Rees verandah viewing the very outlook that was being painted at the time of his visit. Rees was one of Australia's pre-eminent landscape painters. He fell in love with Sydney Harbour and spent many years painting it from his home in Northwood:

I don't want to go to heaven because it can't be as beautiful as this.
Lloyd Rees on Sydney Harbour

The paintings have been reframed and protected with UV sensitive glass and now reside on permanent display in the Fellows and Edward Ford Rooms on the ground floor of 145 Macquarie St. Sydney. The College invites all Fellows to view and enjoy them on visiting the College.