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Art Gallery WA Media Release
Frederick Garling, View across the coastal plain

Continental shift

International partnership takes new look at historical works, inspiring next generation of arts students

30 July 2016 – 5 February 2017 | FREE

Continental Shift is the new historical exhibition opening at the Art Gallery of Western Australia on Saturday 30 July. The exhibition is the result of a partnership between the Art Gallery of WA, the Chicago-based Terra Foundation for American Art, and the University of Western Australia.

Fifteen American nineteenth-century landscape paintings are on show alongside Australian works of the same period from the WA State Art Collection.

Accompanying the exhibition is the first ever teaching unit funded by the Terra Foundation of American Art to be held in Australia. This unit is available to third year and honours students majoring in art history at UWA. Interested members of the public can also apply to attend the course.

Continents apart, yet influenced by the same global artistic trends, Continental Shift highlights the cross-pollination of ideas and influences, exploring the referential artistic practices intrinsic to the development of art movements across the centuries.

On loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art are nineteenth-century works by 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 accompanied by a selection of classic Australian works by artists including Louis Buvelot, Nicholas Chevalier, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton and Eugene von Guérard.

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 for art in nineteenth-century Europe. Continental Shift will enable 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.

Accompanied by an undergraduate course run by UWA and an international symposium at AGWA, this display strikes up new conversations between the US and Australia, and further develops the longstanding partnership between UWA and AGWA.

Quotes attributable to Stefano Carboni, Director, Art Gallery of Western Australia
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.”

“Complemented by a strong schedule of events including a symposium featuring international speakers, and the associated course at UWA, the exhibition represents a significant opportunity for arts students to re-examine and reconsider connections and themes found in historical artistic works across continents.”

Quotes attributable to Melissa Harpley, Curator of Historical + Modern Art, Art Gallery of Western Australia
“Our collection of Australian nineteenth-century art is popular with gallery audiences, and includes one of the nation’s iconic paintings, namely Frederick McCubbin’s Down on his luck (1889). So from my perspective, being able to display our Australian works alongside these works from the Terra Foundation is a great way to contextualise some of our collection’s highlights in an engaging way for our audiences.”

Continental Shift will enable audiences to see how America and Australia have a shared history of art practice in the nineteenth century, with similar issues addressed by artists in each country, using largely the same set of aesthetic influences in the depiction of these vast continents, both of which were new to European eyes and understanding.”

Quote attributable to Peter John Brownlee, Curator, Terra Foundation for American Art
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."

Quote attributable Emeritus Professor Richard Read, teaching coordinator and symposium convener, University of Western Australia
“'Hanging these magnificent paintings from America and Australia beside each other at the Art Gallery of Western Australia is bound to change and deepen their meaning for the public, students and scholars alike. In the groundbreaking teaching unit and international symposium collaboratively fashioned by three leading institutions and generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, 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 moulded by similar forces of social, scientific, and economic modernity.”

About the 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. To learn more about the Terra Foundation, please visit

About the UWA course
Aug-Oct 2016
Unit Name: HART3990 Colonisation and wilderness in nineteenth-century American and Australian landscape paintings.
The 10-week course will be taught on site at the Art Gallery of WA from August to October 2016 and features international and local guest lecturers. It is on offer to third year and honours students undertaking an art history degree at UWA. Interested members of the public can also apply to attend as non-assessed audit students through AccessUWA for a fee of $305. Enrollments close 27 July 2016.

About the Symposium
27-28 September 2016 | FREE
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 suggested by thirty American and Australian nineteenth-century landscape paintings hanging together from the collections of the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

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

Public Programs


1-2pm, Sunday 31 July | FREE | Bookings recommended via AGWA
AGWA Theatrette
Topic: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Painting: A Cultural History
Speaker: Peter John Brownlee

Hear from Curator PJ Brownlee of the Terra Foundation for American Art, as part of the opening weekend of Continental Shift. This lecture surveys major developments in the evolution of landscape painting in the United States with a comparative eye to concurrent developments in Australia. Analysing key works by major artists, the talk will explore themes and trends in American art and cultural history, including the emergence and aesthetics of landscape tourism, urbanisation and industrialisation, westward expansion and removal of Indigenous peoples, and the scientific and philosophical preoccupations of landscape painting after 1850.

September - Professor Kenneth Haltman, Art History, University of Oklahoma.
October - Associate Professor Rachael Z. DeLue, American Art, Princeton University.

Guided tours at the Art Gallery of WA
12.15pm-12.45pm, Art Snack (lunchtime tour) Wednesdays in August
2pm Sundays during August 2016 | FREE | Bookings recommended via AGWA

AGWA’s Guru Guides will take visitors on a tour of panoramic landscapes featuring works from Continental Shift as well as works from the WA State Art Collection.

For more information about these programs, visit

This exhibition is a collaboration between the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the University of Western Australia and the Terra Foundation for American Art, which is also recognised for its generous support.


Further information

For more information, interviews and imagery please contact Tanya Sticca on 9492 6692 or email

Annual Sponsors

Principal Partner

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303 MullenLowe, Singapore Airlines, Audi, Smartbots, Alex Hotel, Juniper Estate, Gage Roads Brewing Co.

Eugene Von Guèrard Mt William from Mt Dryden, Victoria 1857. Oil on canvas, 61.5 x 91.5 cm (sight), 76.2 x 106 cm (framed). State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia Purchased. 1971.

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