Sydney Painting the Rocks – The Loss of Old Sydney Exhibition

August 11th, 2010


Museum of Sydney – Painting The Rocks – The loss of Old Sydney showcases surviving artworks displayed at a 1902 exhibition depicting Old Sydney – one of the untold stories of Sydney – a must see.

  • 7 August – 28 November 2010
  • Museum of Sydney

Museum of Sydney
cnr Bridge & Phillip Streets, Sydney
Open daily 9.30am – 5pm

The green bans of the 1970s are well documented but long before then  a group of artists fought with paint and palette to immortalise Old Sydney on canvas as it faced demolition in the transformation from colonial city to urban metropolis in the early 1900s.

For over 100 years the stories behind the artworks have remained untold until now, as a new exhibition opening at the Museum of Sydney on 7 August with accompanying book digs up this little-known piece of Sydney’s history.

Painting The Rocks: the loss of Old Sydney, a joint collaboration between the Historic Houses Trust of NSW and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, showcases surviving artworks displayed at a 1902 exhibition depicting Old Sydney, along with government photographs taken to document the area, artworks from private collections, written material championing the need for heritage conservation and archaeological artefacts and remnants of buildings from the time.

A government announcement in 1900 for plans to demolish Old Sydney in response to overcrowding, the outbreak of bubonic plague and the need for adequate infrastructure, sparked the attention of local artists who sought to document the area on canvas.
The works by artists such as Sydney Long, Julian Ashton, Fred Leist, and Lionel Lindsay explore life in The Rocks and Millers Point, depicting a romanticised view of the community, buildings and streets of the time, some of which survived and the many that didn’t.

The mix of paintings, photographs and written work are a poignant reminder of what existed before the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Cahill Expressway, Circular Quay Railway and Hickson Road and inspired future conservation of the heritage that exists today.

Book by Paul Ashton, Caroline Butler-Bowdon, Anna Cossu and Wayne Johnson

Complementing the exhibition is a ‘then and now’ interactive allowing visitors to explore the transformation of The Rocks and Millers Point and compare the concerns of 100 years ago to the challenges faced today.

A walking tour map and iphone application are available offering visitors the opportunity to tour the existing and demolished sites featured in the exhibition.

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