J Utzon: Sydney Opera House architectural drawingsJ Utzon: Sydney Opera House architectural drawings

For researchers, historians and interested Australians alike, the Pictures collections reveal a fascinating portrait of Australian lives. These collections form one of the most significant historical and documentary collections in Australia. Comprising watercolours, prints, drawings, silhouettes, miniatures, framed works (including oil paintings), architectural plans, black and white drawings, around one million photographs (see Photographic collections) and realia, they document the lives of past and present Australians, their society and buildings and landscapes.

People wanting historical images of suburbs or towns, portraits of public figures or their own ancestors, images of ships, or illustrations of Australian society and history, will find them invaluable.

The collections range from the late eighteenth century to the present day. While the images mostly illustrate New South Wales, there are strong nineteenth century holdings of other Australian states and the Pacific Region.

Collection strengths include:

  • Unrivalled collections documenting European colonisation of Australasia and the Pacific, including art work from the voyages of Captain Cook and some of the first images made by Europeans in Australia. These are rich in topographical and natural history illustrations. A great strength - indeed through to the end of the nineteenth century - are images of Aboriginal people.
  • Fine collections of nineteenth century watercolours, prints and drawings, by both professional and amateur artists. Some artists, such as John William Lewin, Joseph Lycett, S. T. Gill, Eugene von Guerard, John Glover and William Strutt, are represented by significant holdings of preparatory sketches and finished works.
  • Extensive holdings of portraits of prominent Australians and families as well as less well-known people.
  • Architectural plans created by private practices and architects in NSW. Represented in the collection are approximately 100 000 plans of a range of architects from the less well known to significant practitioners such as Harry Seidler, Glenn Murcutt and Jorn Utzon's collection of Sydney Opera House plans.
  • About 50 000 black and white art drawings - from a large holding of early twentieth century Bulletin cartoons through to contemporary political and editorial cartooning.
  • Other collection strengths include theatrical stage and costume designs, and documentation of productions; book illustration; ship illustrations (strongest in later nineteenth century and early twentieth century ships); and aviation images.

For more information about the Pictures collection, Ask a Librarian.

Top image: Sydney Opera House collection (1956-1967) comprises pictorial material such as preliminary drawings, working drawings, illustrated reports, prints and consultants’ drawings of this world famous building.

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