Clarice Beckett, The beach, circa 1930. oil on board. Maud Rowe Bequest, 1937. Frame conserved with funds from the U3A History of the Art Gallery class, 2017. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat



See a selection of works from the Gallery’s collection by one of the most distinctive art movements in Australia of the 20th century, the Tonalists of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Tonalists  were a group of artists who came under the spell of the controversial and charismatic artist and teacher Max Meldrum, who was was one of the most influential figures in the 20th century Australian art but has also been one of the most neglected in recent years. When he established his own school in Melbourne in 1916, he drew the ire of the teachers at the National Gallery School by attracting some of their best students to defect to his classes.

Max Meldrum was adored and reviled in equal measure for teaching his followers that the artist should look beyond its surface appearance of their subject to its tonal variations – the light and shade.

The Tonalists, also known as ‘the Meldrumites’ have produced some of the most memorable and distinctive artworks produced in Australian between the two world wars. Their works are identifiable by their  ‘misty’ appearance and muted tones. While the work of Meldrum’s student Clarice Beckett has become well known in recent years, works by his other students and followers are less well known.

This exhibition, showcasing works from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat, brings together paintings by Max Meldrum, Clarice Beckett, Colin Colahan,  Alma Figuerola, Jock Frater, Harry Harrison, Percy Leason and other  ‘Meldrumites’.  Included are a number of new acquisitions the highlight of which is a gorgeous Clarice Beckett still life of wattles and gums, an unusual subject as she was not drawn to native flora.


30 April 2022–31 July 2022

Open 10 am–5 pm daily


Selected works

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