Painted by the 20th-century Australian artist Leonard William French, Chaos is a striking work reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch that now resides in the Bendigo Art Gallery. Although painted in the late ’90s it’s never been viewed by the public – until now, thanks to the Equity Trustees-managed Frances and Harold Abbott Foundation, which helped fund the conservation of this significant artwork with a grant of $50,000.
Chaos was one of French’s last paintings and lay in storage for years at his studio, a converted flour mill, making necessary a professional restoration before being put on display for the public. Its unveiling finally took place in October 2018 at the Bendigo Art Gallery, coinciding with the publication of a biography of French – entitled ‘The Boy from Brunswick’ – by Reg MacDonald OAM.
Described by art history professor Sasha Grishin as one of Australia’s “most distinguished, original and unusual artists”, chances are you’ve already seen at least one of French’s artworks – most likely one of his monumental stained glass designs. These include the 16 stained glass windows in the foyer of Canberra’s Australian National Library; the stained glass ceiling of Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria; or the mandala window in Monash University’s Robert Blackwood Concert Hall.
More than any other form of visual arts, painting is particularly vulnerable to damage and degradation. Conserving Chaos means that it not only adheres to the high standards expected of display in a museum – allowing it to be viewed by arts scholars, historians and lovers with the vibrancy French intended – but that it is now protected against the elements of time, conserving it for future generations.
We are proud to have played a small part in this wonderful project and commend the Bendigo Art Gallery, one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional galleries, on its successful completion to coincide with the publication of the French’s story - the ‘Brunswick boy’ who went on to become an internationally acclaimed artist.
Banner picture above: Please Note that the original artwork is in colour not in black and white
Enamel on hessian-covered hardboard
Reproduced courtesy of the estate of the late Leonard French
Photograph: Ian Hill