Johnstone Gallery Archive

We were pleased recently to receive a visit from Jane Maclean to view scrapbooks from the Johnstone Gallery Archive. Jane is the niece of Marjorie and Brian Johnstone, the owners of the gallery which showed the latest in art and design in Brisbane from 1950 to 1972. Marjorie, a well known actress, compiled the scrapbooks throughout the life of the gallery and up until 1987. Containing invitations, photographs, catalogues and press reviews of the gallery’s exhibitions as well as other items of interest to Marjorie, the scrapbooks are a trove of information on Brisbane's artistic, theatrical and social life. Jane found that her family appears quite frequently in their pages.

The archive was bequeathed to State Library of Queensland and was received following Marjorie’s death in 1993. Along with the scrapbooks it includes a large collection of correspondence with artists and gallery directors, photograph albums, exhibition catalogues and artists’ statements. The Johnstone Gallery exhibitions have been indexed and may be searched through Onesearch.

The Gallery, at first known as the Marodian Gallery, was initially located in Upper Edward Street, later moving to the basement of the Brisbane Arcade and later still to the Johnstone’s home in Cintra Road, Bowen Hills. It was one of the most important of its time in Australia, presenting the works of significant painters such as Arthur Boyd, Margaret Olley, Sidney Nolan, John Coburn, Charles Blackman, Lloyd Rees and Donald Friend.

The Johnstones were heavily involved in the theatre, being personal friends of Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh from whom there is a signed photograph in one of the scrapbooks. They provided at very low cost the land on which the Twelfth Night Theatre is situated and contributed to fundraising for its building.

Their theatricality extended to their exhibitions with innovations in the manner of displaying works using curtaining, plants and the garden setting.

When the Gallery closed in 1972 Max Hurley created a Christmas card showing the Johnstones, along with the spirit of their beloved dog Lindy, strewing the artworks they had shown at the Gallery from a sleigh.

The Australian Library of Art is also fortunate to hold the photographic collection of Arthur Davenport who documented exhibition installations and works at the Johnstone Gallery for many years. This collection of more than 1700 photographs was donated by Arthur’s wife Len.

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