Silver and gold: unique Australian objects 1830–1910 showcases exceptional nineteenth and early twentieth century Australian silver and gold objects drawn from the National Gallery of Australia’s significant collection of colonial decorative arts and design. The theme of this exhibition is celebration, with objects marking significant personal, community and professional achievements and milestones, or displays of prosperity and artistic accomplishment. This exhibition includes presentation, ceremonial and testimonial pieces, jewellery and functional tableware, displayed within themes of Sport, Agriculture, Dining, Goldfields, Achievement and Defining moments. Many of these objects are personalised with engraved inscriptions, providing insights into personal and professional achievements and family, social and business relationships.
Silver and gold celebrates the aesthetic and technical achievements of many of Australia’s most significant early silversmiths. It includes objects made by silversmiths who worked across the country, including Alexander Dick, David Barclay, Henry Steiner, William Edwards, Edward Fischer, John J Cohen and Jochim Matthias Wendt. These silversmiths worked in a range of historical revival and contemporary styles. While British and European aesthetics and traditions pervade the early silverware created in Australia, local styles emerged as a national consciousness developed and became more pronounced towards Federation.
This exhibition highlights the important role that Australia’s early silversmiths played within civic, church and community life. Individually crafted objects provide valuable social commentary about life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century as records of special events, identities and insights into what were considered essential ingredients at the time for building a ‘civilised’ society within the isolated bounds of the colonies. Many of the objects reflect the nationalist fervour of the late nineteenth century, embodying the ideas of nation-building through honouring the individual worker achieving excellence, the heroic sportsman and celebrating Australia’s unique flora and fauna.
Silver and gold reveals the exceptional skills of Australia’s earliest professional craft practitioners and their compelling narratives of Australian social and commercial history.