Discovery of Freda Robertshaw’s Artwork in Blue Mountains Home Enriches National Gallery Collection

Unveiling a Hidden Treasure: Freda Robertshaw’s Masterpiece Found in Blue Mountains Dwelling, Set for National Gallery Display

In a tale of unexpected artistic revelation, Tracy Nickl stumbled upon an intimate connection to the Australian art world within the confines of his grandparents’ dwelling. Nestled behind the Christmas tree, an unassuming artwork depicted a scene of Australian nature, capturing a group of individuals attiring themselves after a bush swim.

Little did Nickl comprehend that this unassuming piece, titled “The Bushwalkers,” was the creation of none other than pioneering Sydney artist Freda Robertshaw, an eminent figure in Australia’s artistic heritage. This unsuspected gem, which had silently adorned his grandparents’ abode for generations, had now morphed into a million-dollar masterpiece.

Nickl recollected, “My grandfather held a penchant for collecting art, particularly the works of Australian artists, and he took great interest in knowing the creators behind each piece.” The artwork had been a constant presence within the household, an immutable witness to the passage of time across generations. It wasn’t until recent events necessitated the clearing of his grandparents’ estate, following the passing of his father, that the significance of the painting came to light.

Recognizing the value that his grandfather placed on quality possessions, Nickl decided to seek the expertise of a connoisseur before parting with the cherished collection. Fortuitously, the renowned Australian painter Ben Quilty was a patron of Nickl’s patisserie in the picturesque New South Wales Southern Highlands.

Quilty recounted the unexpected encounter, stating, “When Tracy visited my studio, seeking assistance in appraising his grandfather’s art collection before potentially consigning it to a thrift store, I reluctantly agreed.” Among the plethora of artworks numbering seventy, one stood out: “The Bushwalkers.” As a valuer conveyed the staggering revelation over the phone a valuation bordering on a million dollars Quilty was overcome with emotion, acknowledging the profound legacy of Freda Robertshaw and the Nickl family.

Subsequently, Quilty contacted an art dealer who swiftly extended an offer of $600,000 for the artwork. The decision lay with Nickl, who, swayed by Quilty’s advice, deliberated whether to partake in an auction, potentially garnering an even higher sum.

Ultimately, the Nickl family opted to bestow the artwork to the National Gallery of Australia, situated in Canberra, instead of pursuing a private sale. Nickl elucidated, “For me, the rightful place for this masterpiece is within the public realm. Were we to sell it privately, it might find its way into the hands of a singular affluent individual, forever hidden from public view  a fate my grandfather would certainly disapprove of.”

A meeting transpired between the Nickl family and Nick Mitzevich, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, solidifying the arrangement. A stipulation was established: “The Bushwalkers” must be exhibited in perpetuity, an unceasing tribute to its creator and the Nickl family’s legacy. Mr. Mitzevich, in addition, proposed the inclusion of the artwork in a roving exhibition, thereby disseminating its artistic resonance across diverse locales.

In a closing sentiment that encapsulates the essence of this narrative, Nickl affirmed, “The enduring legacy of my grandparents transcends monetary worth. It’s about preserving and sharing a piece of our cultural heritage.” With the curtain rising on a new chapter in “The Bushwalkers” journey, its significance will continue to reverberate through the hallowed halls of the National Gallery, honoring both the artist’s vision and the Nickl family’s unwavering commitment to artistic preservation.