THE CRUTHERS COLLECTION OF WOMEN'S ART AND THE CRUTHERS FAMILY
The Cruthers family began collecting Australian art in 1974. From the outset Sheila Cruthers was drawn to work by women artists. Among her first purchases were self portraits by Elise Blumann and Kate O’Connor, which set her on a course of collecting self portraits. She also purchased new work by younger artists. Other family members collected different art – the work of mid 20th painters, mostly male, and contemporary art.
Sheila quickly decided to pair every self portrait she bought with another work by the artist, a collecting concept she called “The artist and her work”. Janine Burke’s pioneering book Australian Women Artists 1840s-1940s, published in 1981, was a useful tool to understanding the range of little known women artists. By the early 1980s more work was being purchased on the east coast, and when Jim and Sheila relocated to the US for work in 1983, the task of locating appropriate art fell to John Cruthers, by then based in Sydney. New purchases were despatched to New York and installed in the family apartment. There were frequent visitors including museum directors and curators, writers, historians and art critics, artists, gallerists and collectors.
Jim and Sheila returned to Perth in late 1989 and the collection was displayed in the family home in Mosman Park. The house was renovated to create a women’s art gallery off the living room, and later a large upstairs gallery for contemporary women’s art. The collection was regularly opened to visitors and works frequently made available for loan.
In 1994 the family was asked to display the women’s collection as part of the National Women’s Art Exhibition, an umbrella event of over 140 exhibitions nationwide to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day. In the company of women – 100 years of Australian women’s art from the Cruthers Collection ran at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in February-March 1995, accompanied by a catalogue. It comprised about 170 works by 75 artists.
Positive responses from viewers and critics encouraged the family to concentrate on women’s art and the collection grew quickly, now known for the first time as the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art. After the exhibition Modern Australian Women 1925-1945 at the Art Gallery of SA in 2000, which included key CCWA works, the family decided the CCWA was worth preserving and making available to the Australian public. Negotiations to gift the CCWA began with the University of WA in 2002.
CCWA AND THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Lady Sheila Cruthers and Sir James Cruthers gifted the Cruthers Collection of Women’s art to the University of Western Australia in 2007. A Deed of Gift was established between the two parties, with annual tranches of artworks gifted by the CAF to UWA through the Commonwealth government's Cultural Gifts Program. This gift of 460 works of art included paintings, works on paper, prints, photography, textiles and sculpture. Since 2007 an additional 85 works have been gifted by the Cruthers Art Foundation and in addition funds provided to UWA by CAF have enabled the University to purchase 32 works for the CCWA since 2011. At 30 June 2015 the CCWA numbered over 600 works. More recently the CCWA has also benefitted from gifts of significant works of art from third parties.
The Deed of Gift outlines the agreed purpose of the CCWA and defines the roles and responsibilities of UWA and CAF. The purposes of the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art at The University of Western Australia are to:
- Promote Australian women’s art and women artists by way of exhibition, research, teaching and publications, and through providing funds to achieve these goals.
- Store, maintain and develop the Collection within the University.
- Protect and preserve the Collection as one Collection and not sell, assign, dispose or separate the Collection otherwise than in strict accordance with the guidelines.
- Maintain a substantial part of the Collection on permanent display at the University.
- Make the Collection available for students, art historians, curators and artists for the purposes of study, research, publications and as a teaching aid.
- Administer loans of work of art from the Collection…including reproductions requests for publications.
- Maintain the selective, idiosyncratic and unique attributes of the Collection.
- Maintain the themes and subject areas established by the Cruthers family in the Collection.
Through its curator Ms Gemma Weston the CCWA runs a yearly exhibition program in the Lady Sheila Cruthers Gallery within the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery on the UWA campus, each accompanied by a catalogue and a series of public and academic programs.
The CCWA runs an acquisitions program and a related publications program.
Donating to the CCWA
The CCWA is a Deductible Gift Recipient under the Australian government’s Cultural Gifts Program and can accept donations of artworks that fulfil its collecting brief. Subject to CGP conditions, such gifts attract a tax deduction.
The CCWA can also accept gifts of cash, which also attract a tax deduction. If you wish to discuss a donation, please contact Ms Gemma Weston at The University of Western Australia.