James A. Powell Gallery - Australian Art 1945 to 1965

Here we find works of art from a time when Australians were responding to the terrible experiences of the war while at the same time becoming more outward-looking.

Australian art was beginning to reclaim a distinct regional identity after a long period following overseas cultural trends or looking back to the image-making of the Federation era.

Many artists were seeking to shake up the conservative art scene of the time by exploring new forms and applying ideas from Modernist art. Some of these artists went on to be major players in a group known as the Antipodeans, for whom the human figure was a central element of image making.

Other artists applied the principles of Abstract Expressionism, with its use of expressive gesture, line, form and colour, more capable of delivering their messages.

In 1979, the Gallery Association gave the building and collection to the Ballaarat City Council, which had also been bequeathed a group of shops next to the Gallery building by businessman William Bones. The Council extended the Gallery into the 1886 Bones Building, adding exhibition space, retail area and a cafe. This 1987 extension doubled the Gallery's size.

As Secretary of the Gallery Association from 1885 until 1915, James Powell was in effect the first manager of the Gallery. He was the Gallery's philosopher and advocate in the early years, articulating the importance of a socially useful gallery.