Bendigo Art Gallery has made the most of the lockdown period and taken the opportunity to conduct some vital maintenance work behind the scenes. We are delighted to reveal a dramatic refresh of our historic courts. Introducing Teal Tree!
This light late Victorian blue/green was an interior colour of choice for the wealthier families of the goldfields. Blue was considered synonymous with opulence and wealth and provided an uplifting backdrop to the dark timber of Victorian furniture and the gold frames of the paintings and artworks of the period. Simple painted wall treatments came into vogue in the late nineteenth century (the early twentieth century in Australia), and colours such as dove grey, vieux rose, pale blue and eau de Nil (‘water of the Nile’)’ replaced the highly patterned wallpapers in the homes of fashion conscious late-Victorians1.
The pale blue/green offers up a greater breadth of possibilities for display, as it is complementary to both works on paper from the colonial collection as well as modern paintings. There is a wonderful precedent for the use of this atmospheric colour in buildings of a similar period, including Government House in Melbourne and the Art Gallery of Ballarat. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London also feature a light Victorian blue/green in their historic courts.
Importantly, from a conservation point of view, the colour significantly lightens our gallery spaces without the need to increase our artificial lighting levels, which need to remain low. This, we feel, enhances the visitor viewing experience and aids the longevity of display for our historic collection, as – quite literally – we do not have to have the lights up as high.
There is a fascinating history and theory around colour in exhibition design, and the use of colour in galleries to delineate spaces and assist in the interpretation of the themes of a particular room. While there is definitely a place for the ‘white cube’ gallery - in which walls are stripped of ornament and painted entirely in white in an attempt to create a neutral space – a carefully selected period colour such as Teal Tree may enhance the heritage values of the Gallery itself.
1 Terence Lane and Jessie Serle, Australians at Home: a Documentary History of Australian Domestic Interiors from 1788 to 1914, Oxford University Press Australia, 1990, page 333.