Visitors explore the cross-pollination of ideas and influences between the United States and Australia in the new Terra Collection Initiative Continental Shift.

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International Partnership Prompts New Look at Historical American and Australian Artworks, Inspires Next Generation of Art Students

July 30, 2016

Perth, Australia—The new Terra Collection Initiative Continental Shift, an exploration of historical landscape paintings at the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA), highlights the cross-pollination of ideas and influences between the United States and Australia. Re-examining and reconsidering connections and themes found in artistic works from different continents, the exhibition is the result of a partnership between the AGWA, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the University of Western Australia (UWA).

Continental Shift represents an exciting development in our relationship with the University of Western Australia and the opportunity for a new partnership with the Chicago-based Terra Foundation for American Art. The exhibition is an excellent opportunity for people to view historical landscapes from the US and Australia in a new light,” explained AGWA Director Stefano Carboni.

Both North America and Australia share a history of having been settled by British colonists at a time when landscape painting was coming into its own as a subject in nineteenth-century Europe. Continental Shift enables audiences to see how the “European vision” of artists was brought to bear on the depiction of these new lands, and to chart similarities and differences in how these same set of aesthetic influences developed in the work of artists on each continent.

On loan from the Terra Foundation are 15 nineteenth-century works by artists such as Alfred Thompson Bricher, Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughty, Sanford Robinson Gifford, William Groombridge, William Stanley Haseltine, Martin John Heade, George Inness, John Frederick Kensett, John La Farge, Fitz Henry Lane, and Worthington Whittredge. These are interspersed with a selection of 15 classic Australian works from the Western Australia State Art Collection by artists including Louis Buvelot, Nicholas Chevalier, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, and Eugene von Guérard.

According to Terra Foundation Curator Peter John Brownlee, “Continental Shift situates historical American art within a meaningful and robust cross-cultural dialogue between national artistic traditions, the organizing partners, a broad network of scholars, and ultimately the visitors who will come to see it. Particularly exciting is the combination of exhibition and university course, which will expand opportunities for in-depth study of and extended engagement with celebrated works of art.”

Accompanying the exhibition is the first-ever teaching unit funded by the Terra Foundation in Australia, a 10-week course taught on site at UWA from August to October featuring international and local guest lecturers. This unit is available to third-year and honors students majoring in art history at UWA. Interested members of the public can also apply to attend the course.

Emeritus Professor Richard Read, teaching coordinator and symposium convener at UWA, stated,  “ In this groundbreaking teaching unit, the focus of distinguished visiting lecturers from America, Australia, and the United Kingdom will be on the vexed relationship between environmental change, European antecedents, and aesthetic innovation as colonial occupation supplanted indigenous territories and wilderness across the globe. At a time when climate change is at the forefront of our minds, there has never been more to learn from nineteenth-century landscape paintings from parts of the world that are geographically remote from each other but molded by similar forces of social, scientific, and economic modernity.”

Additionally, AGWA will host a two-day symposium with leading scholars from America, Australia, and England, providing a unique intercultural exchange on aesthetic and environmental issues. Speakers include:

  • Professor David Peters Corbett (Courtauld Institute, London, and University of East Anglia),
  • Associate Professor Rachael Z. DeLue (Princeton University),
  • David Hansen (Australian National University),
  • Professor Kenneth Haltmann (University of Oklahoma),
  • Chris Pease (Western Australian artist),
  • Ruth Pullin (University of Melbourne),
  • Emeritus Professor Richard Read (University of Western Australia), and
  • Professor Catherine Speck (University of Adelaide).

For more information about these programs, please visit

Art Gallery of Western Australia

The Art Gallery of Western Australia, founded in 1895, occupies a precinct of three heritage buildings on the south-eastern corner of the Perth Cultural Centre. The Gallery houses the State Art Collection, which includes one of the world’s finest collections of Indigenous art, the pre-eminent collection of Western Australian art and design, as well as Australian and International art and design.

Terra Foundation for American Art

Established in 1978, the Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering the exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States. With financial resources of more than $350 million, an exceptional collection of American art dating from the colonial era to 1945, and an expansive grant program, it is one of the leading foundations focused on American art, supporting exhibitions, academic programs, and research worldwide.