The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition: a Cultural Landmark

Free Public Lecture

The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition: a Cultural Landmark

Terence Lane, the distinguished curator and writer, will examine the history and influence of one of Australia's most intriguing cultural landmarks: the notorious "9 by 5 Impression exhibition" of 1889.

This lecture is the keynote address of the one-day symposium, "Academia and Bohemia: New Perspectives on the National Gallery School", being held on Wednesday 21 June at Federation Hall at the VCA.

There had been previous artist organised group exhibitions in Melbourne, but nothing with its own manifesto, nothing so stage managed and proselytising as the 9 by 5 Impression exhibition which opened in Buxton’s Rooms, Swanston Street, on 17 August 1889. The little pictures which comprised the exhibition (many of them sketches painted on cigar box lids, 9 inches by 5 inches), shocked conservative viewers, and provoked Melbourne’s establishment critic, James Smith, into writing a savage review. The exhibition was soon forgotten, but came into its own after 1914, when Frank Gibson mentioned it in his Charles Conder biography. Of the 183 works originally exhibited only one third survives. They are mostly in public galleries, or are eagerly sought after when they come onto the market from private collections.

Why does this exhibition continue to interest us? Why does it still deserve to be considered a landmark event in the history of Australian art?

Organised by the Australian Institute of Art History (AIAH) in the Faculty of Arts, in collaboration with the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), as part of the celebrations in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Victorian College of the Arts.

Image: Charles Conder, Dandenongs from Heidelberg, c.1889, oil on wood panel, Art Gallery of South Australia


  •  Terence Lane
    Terence Lane, Independent art historian and writer; former Senior Curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Victoria.