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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator RAE (New South Wales) (1:42 AM) . - There are one or two reasons why sub-item b should be retained. Indeed, I had rather see the duty raised than lowered or abolished. In the first place, it would be absurd for the community to tax itself when it is going to get the money raised from a duty under this item. If we are to raise money through the Customs we adust raise it from individuals. It would, for instance, be useless to tax. the rails to be used on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. It would simply be taxing ourselves. ,

Senator Millen - The honorable . senator is assuming that public art galleries are supported out of the Consolidated Revenue.

Senator RAE - Are they not subsidized from the public revenue?

Senator Millen - In certain cases, but never .by the Federal Government.

Senator RAE - The question whether the "money for subsidizing such galleries is provided by the Federal or State Government is immaterial. It is obtained from the people. My point is that it would be useless for the community to tax itself, and put the money into its own pocket. There is another very good reason, however, for this duty, and that is that whilst possibly the selection committees, which act for public galleries, may make mistakes, and may sometimes purchase works of art about which connoisseurs differ, yet, on the whole, it must be admitted that the purchases made for public galleries are of a high character. In this respect they differ from purchases made oy many private individuals, who may have money, but no taste or knowledge, and who frequently purchase abroad wretched daubs, frauds, and bogus product-ions, which would not be worthy of a place in any really artistic gallery. If we are going to tax things as articles of luxury there are two reasons why we should tax pictures bought by private individuals in preference to pictures bought for art galleries. Generally speaking, the latter are of a high' character, and present subjects, such as landscapes, which our artists could not paint here if they wished to do so. It is obvious that an art gallery is open to every member of the community who is within easy distance of it. A private individual, however, may buy to gratify his own selfish pleasure, and keep a work of art locked up. in his own gallery. I do not think that they all do that, but the majority of them do.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Very few.

Senator RAE - We do not hear of wealthy persons in Australia, as in Great Britain, and I am told in America, throwing open their grounds and art galleries to the public. Here the grounds of a. wealthy person are generally guarded with a high fence, topped with barbed wire or bottles, so that one cannot, see even the flowers that are growing. This shows that a very large number of our wealthy people are so jealous of their wealth that they will not even allow the public to ,look at the outside of their beautiful objects.. What is bought by an individual is bought primarily for his own pleasure, but what is bought for ' exhibition in art .galleries is bought for public entertainment and education. Many of our artists are. driven away by the small recognition of their talent which they get. But, on the. other side of the world, they are claimed as geniuses.

Senator St Ledger - Often it is die other way about.

Senator RAE - I know that in art, sculpture, singing, and other directions, Australians have gained fame and celebrity when they have gone to the other side of the world. Whilst I recognise that their talents may have ripened by study there, yet, in many cases, they showed in Australia great ability which was not recognised until after they had gone away. It is a step in the right direction to strike a blow at the shoddy conduct of our wealthy collectors. A Customs duty will- do something to penalize bad Australians who, while they vaunt their Jingo Imperialism, will give no assistance to their fellow Australians, but look down upon them until the nobs on the other side have taught them what is worthy of recognition. I am sorry that the duty is not 50, instead of 25, per cent.

Senator Lt.-Colonel "Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [1.5b a.m.]. - Senator Rae has done the best he could to destroy his case by the extravagance of the language which he used at the conclusion of his speech. In Australia there are very few persons who are sufficiently wealthy to own a large collection of pictures, but I can recall the names of certain persons in Sydney who had collections which were thrown open to the public periodically.

Senator Rae - Will you tell me the names of any of them, because I have1 never had any chance to see any private collection ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - No man who is an admirer of works of art is so selfish as to want to keep them to himself. In point of fact most of our wealthy people, if they have any work which is worth showing are only too anxious that others shall have an opportunity of seeing the work-, and so recognising them as persons who are doing- something to beautify, their homes.

Senator Rae - Do- you think, for- a. moment, that a private individual' would obtrude himself on a person with, whom he had' 'no acquaintance ? ,

Senator St Ledger - If he is a student of art he will.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Of course, an ordinary individual';will not go to a man with whom he has no acquaintance and ask permission to see his collection of beautiful pictures. But if a man has sufficient taste to- form a gallery of pictures in his home, he will, oncertain days, most assuredly throw his gallery open, to, those who desire to. see his collection, irrespective of whether they, are personal friends Or not. But, assuming, for the. sake of argument, that a man is not prepared to act so liberally he will da what he can to develop a taste in those who are seeking instruction by seeing the best models..

Senator Rae - Can you deny my statement that there are people who are rich, but who have no taste?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - There are also people who are poor, but who have no taste. I admit that there are many persons who buy all sorts of picture and works of art, because they wish to be considered as patrons of art.. But the honorable senator may depend upon it that if a man has money he will get some person to guide him in respect to his purchases, and afford to the public an opportunity to see what a fine taste he has, although he was indebted to his adviser for the character of his purchases. He must see-that he has put a case which is altogether too strong against the free admission of works of art. He is willing that they should be admitted free if they are brought in for places where they may be seen by the public at stated periods. In an art gallery a student has an opportunity to copy a work of art.. Whether it is in a private, home or in a public institution a work of art is beneficial to the country. Even if a man allows only the members of his family to see the works of art which he purchases he is doing a good work, because he is educating a limited number of persons. In a new country like Australia men are generally compelled to attend to the ordinary duties of life, and have not as much time as have men of leisure in older countries to develop a taste- in high art and in beauty of form and figure. If we caninduce a few persons to, cultivate a taste for art- we shall gradually remove them, from the more material concerns of life. The Greeks were a people with refined tastes, and these were due to the large number of works of art which were constantly coming into the country, or were beingcreated there. Would it not be a great thing to see that in Australia? Why should we throw any obstacle in the way of those who wish to secure works of art ?

Senator Rae - The Greeks, produced, their own works of art.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir, ALBERT GOULD - Yes, but they, were always prepared to- take works of art from any other nation, and so it has always been- with art> artistic people. I do not believe that there is a true artist in Australia who would advocate this proposal, because naturally he desires to see what can be done by those who possibly have had greater advantages, than he has had. If they are true disciples of art they will do everything they can to develop the principles, of true art until a high standard is reached. We shall find, as the years roll by, that many works of sculpture and beautiful pictureswhich are collected for private galleries will ultimately come into the possession of the State. In their wills, wealthy collectors, will bequeath- pictures and works of art to the art galleries, but if we pass- the- item as it stands these works of art will have paid a duty of 25 per cent. This item applies, not only to pictures worth £20, but also to pictures which may be worth thousands of pounds. If we had wealthy men here as they have in America, they would say, " We want to get works of the old masters, and are prepared to give any price for them within reason." If a wealthy man gave £5,000 for a work of art, on its arrival here 10 per cent, would be added to the cost price, and then a duty of 25 per cent, would be charged. Is that a reasonable thing for us to do?

Senator Rae - Yes, it is helping Australia.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - On the contrary, it is not either helping Australia or holding ourselves up to the world as a people prepared to recognise art, but. simply as a people conlent to grovel in the dust and dirt- sooner thin raise themselves to a decent position in the eyes of the world.

Senator Rae - Whois using extravagant language now?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Possibly I have used one to two words extravagantly. In a new country men are down low in the early stage of their career, but, as they gradually get better off, the influence of art should be allowed to prevail. Why' should not a man who has become rich be afforded an opportunity toelevate the taste of his fellow-men? It is a duty which we owe to ourselves and the country to give' some little assistance in this direction. If Senator Rae cares to propose that certain prizes and bonuses should be given to artists in Australia who produce good pictures, I shall vote with him, because I should be very glad to see such encouragement given. What he proposes is no encouragement, but the very reverse. He denies to an artist an opportunity of qualifying himself to produce better work, whereas my suggestion, if adopted, wouldsecure to him that opportunity. This question has been raised on previous occasions. Under the Tariff as it stands, " Works of art, being statuarynot being less than £10 in value," are admitted free. We all recognise the beauty of statuary - of a piece of marble, whether it be in the form of a bust or a single figure or a group. We recognise that it is a work of art - a thing of beauty - and one which, under reasonable conditions, people should be afforded an opportunity of inspecting, and thus helping to elevate and refine their tastes. If honorable senators do not think it is desirable to admit the inferior class of works of art free, I would suggest that works of greater value than £10 should be so admitted. By that means we should levy an impost upon the cheap production of pictures, and at the same time allow pictures of a higher grade to be imported, to the advantage of the general community. We all know that some works of art are no larger than a page of the Tariff, and yet they are full of beauty. Why not admit them free? I am sure that honorable senators will recognise that we do not require revenue, and that by imposing a high duty upon the most beautiful works of art, we shall not only not assist our own artists, but we shall hinder the country from securing the better class of works of art which might otherwise be imported, and which would serve to elevate the tastes of out people.

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