Ask Museum of Brisbane Director, Peter Denham, about his favourite pieces in the new William Bustard: Painting with light exhibition showcasing the work of one of the pioneers of Queensland's art scene, and there's a brief moment of pause. 'You really shouldn't be asking that,' he says, with a grin, as he leads me towards the first of many paintings he considers highlights. 'We could be here all day.'
Indeed, William Bustard: Painting with light features an extraordinary range of works, from paintings and objects through to stained-glass window designs. William Bustard (1894 to 1973) was a prolific entrepreneurial artist, illustrator and stained-glass window designer whose work appeared in prominent Brisbane locations and across the state, from the Darling Downs to North Queensland, as well as internationally in England, Ireland and the United States.
Bustard, who arrived in Brisbane from the United Kingdom in 1921, was regarded for his mastery in capturing Queensland's distinctive sense of light. 'He transformed his style of painting (upon arriving here),' Denham says. 'His palette captured the unique characteristics of the city, from the reflections of clouds on the Brisbane River, to sun-drenched pastoral landscapes and the much-loved Jacaranda trees in full bloom,'
Bustard's uncanny ability is amply demonstrated in the new exhibition, which features 60 paintings, 13 original stained glass window designs and 16 objects showcasing both Bustard's artistic practice and his life in Queensland.
A highlight for those working behind the scenes in the lead-up to the exhibition was the discovery of many of Bustard's hand-drawn designs for stained-glass windows. 'Uncovering new artifacts and stories is one of the most exciting parts of our job as the city's Museum,' says Denham. For example, Bustard's original drawing of City Hall's unique stained-glass windows depicting Brisbane of the 1920s will be displayed in public for the very first time. It was considered lost or destroyed until it was recently discovered by the Museum in a collection belonging to one of Bustard's former colleagues.
A substantial program of events will accompany the exhibition, including tours with the director, curator talks, an en plein air watercolour workshop, panel discussions and a one-of-a-kind stained-glass walking tour.
William Bustard (1894-1973), The Brisbane River c1940, Watercolour on paper, 380x490mm, Private Collection, courtesy of Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane.