The Shepparton Art Museum collection includes a significant collection of Australian and International Ceramics, historic and contemporary Australian landscape paintings, prints and works on paper, and a growing collection of Australian contemporary art.
Shepparton Art Museum's collection was established in 1936 with a fifty-pound grant from the Victorian State Government.
Sir John Longstaff and Robert D. Elliot were instrumental in securing initial money to fund the collection and Longstaff became advisor to the Shepparton City Council on acquisitions. By 1949 the collection totalled 37 works and was displayed in the Town Hall. The collection policy of the time aimed to secure a historical selection of Australian Art with a few European paintings.
By 1960 the collection was one of the few left in regional Victoria that lacked a purpose built gallery. With the redevelopment of the Civic Centre in 1965, a gallery was incorporated. Significant changes took place in the 1970s with ceramics becoming the focus of the collection and collecting policy. The creation of the Victorian State Government Ministry for the Arts in 1972 saw an increase in funding to Shepparton Art Gallery, which assisted in growing the collection, which currently houses over 3000 works of art.
In 2011, approval was granted by Greater Shepparton City Council to rebrand Shepparton Art Gallery to Shepparton Art Museum, or SAM. With an updated collection policy recently adopted, SAM's collecting activities focus mainly on acquiring Australian ceramics and contemporary Australian art, with international ceramics and contemporary Indigenous Australian ceramics acquired through the biennial Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramics Award, and Indigenous Ceramic Art Award, respectively.
Shepparton Art Museum holds one of Australia's leading collections of historic and contemporary Australian ceramics. The collection includes objects made by the first convict potters, and a large collection of domestic and decorative ceramics made by early commercial potteries in Australia such as Bendigo Pottery, Lithgow Pottery, Hoffman Brick Company and Premier Pottery.
Ceramics by Merric Boyd, one of Australia's earliest studio potters is strongly represented in the collection alongside pottery, paintings and works on paper by artists associated with the Arthur Merric Boyd Pottery at Murumbeena, including John Perceval, Arthur Boyd and Mary Boyd.
Australia's leading contemporary ceramicists are represented in the ceramic collection in bodies of work by Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott, Stephen Benwell and Deborah Halpern. Contemporary artists engaging with the ceramic medium or reworking traditions are also represented by Aleks Danko, Penny Byrne, Renee So and Brendan Huntley.
SAM holds a unique collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island ceramics, including work by the late Thapich Dr Gloria Fletcher AO, Hermannsburg Potters, Janet Fieldhouse and Danie Mellor. Indigenous Australian ceramic work is acquired biennially through the Indigenous Ceramic Art Award.
Paintings & Works on Paper Collection
The first work acquired into the Museum's collection was A Wet Day at Tallarook (undated) by John Rowell, and subsequent acquisitions reflect an interest in painting of Shepparton, and wider Australian landscapes. Artists from the Heidelberg School including Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Eugene von Guérard and Ethel Carrick Fox are represented in the collection, with some of their works depicting local sites and landscapes.
Australian women modernists, including important works by Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington Smith, Thea Proctor, Clarice Becket and Marguerite Mahood, amongst others make up an important part of the Museum's painting collection, alongside paintings by the Melbourne-based ROAR Studio artists such as Pasquale Giardino, Peter Ferguson and Wayne Eager, and paintings by Tony Tuckson and Peter Booth.
The collection holds over 500 works on paper, including many prints from the 1970's print-making revival by John Brack, George Baldessin and John Peart.
Contemporary Art Collection
SAM has a growing collection of contemporary Australian art that complement and speaks to works and themes in the existing collection, such as investigations of Australian landscape traditions, ceramic art practice and the use of clay, print-making and sculptural traditions. Contemporary art is collected by artists working across artistic disciplines and conceptual concerns, and the collection includes work by Matthew Griffin, David Noonan, Sam Jinks, Patricia Piccinini, Benjamin Armstrong and Tracey Moffatt amongst others.