The Howard Hinton Collection at the New England Regional Art Museum is the result of one of the greatest acts of artistic philanthropy and benefaction in Australian history.
Between 1928 and 1948 a collection of over 1000 artworks by leading Australian artists were donated to the newly constructed Armidale Teachers’ College by the retired shipping agent, Howard Hinton OBE (1867-1948). The Hinton Collection provides a snapshot into Australian artistic practice in the early twentieth century as well as some insights into this ‘modest and self-effacing’ gentleman. The Lindsay family is strongly represented as is Streeton, Roberts, Gruner, Hilder, Murch and Feint.
Howard Hinton was born on November 10th 1866, in Croyden, Surrey. Through boyhood travel, during which he experienced the art museums of Europe and attended art classes, he developed an adventurous spirit and enthusiastic appreciation of art as well as a discerning visual sensibility. These formative experiences with the art world had a tremendous and enduring impact on Hinton, who would go on to make collecting and sharing art with others, his life’s mission and legacy.
Hinton moved to Australia in the early 1890s where he took work as a clerk with the shipping agent W & A McArthur Ltd in Sydney. He remained with this firm, rising to the position of director in 1916 and retiring in 1928. When he first arrived in Australia he made the unique decision to stay in an artists’ camp at Balmoral Beach. At the time, well known artists resided and worked at the various camps in bushlands around Sydney Harbour’s North Shore including at Mosman’s Bay, Balmoral, Cremorne Point and Little Sirius Cove.
Here Hinton met and became friends with the artists he would go on to vigorously collect, and whose iconic works depicting these Sydney views, are highlights of his collection. Later he moved to Hazelhurst, a boarding house in Cremorne. He occupied a single room, in which hung his personal collection of eleven paintings, with a small selection of works on paper stored in a trunk.
Despite his modest lifestyle, Hinton displayed a magnificent generosity. He was a prolific art collector, and important patron to Australian artists. Driven to share the pleasure and benefit he received from seeing and appreciating art, and by a belief in the importance of art in education, the great majority of Hinton’s art purchases made their way in packing crates to the Armidale Teachers’ College which opened in 1929. Over the next twenty years Hinton would donate over 1000 artworks to the College and some 700 art books. His intention was to provide a comprehensive overview of the development of Australian art from 1880 onwards, and for this collection to be publicly available for the education and enjoyment of the college’s students, staff and Armidale residents. Today it stands as one of the most significant art collections in Australia.
In 1974 when the Armidale Teachers’ College transitioned to become the Armidale College of Advanced Education, this collection became the foundation for the development of New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM). Over the past thirty-five years NERAM curators and staff have drawn from and continued to interpret the collection in exhibitions and publications, and many works have been loaned to major national and international exhibitions. Now, 132 works are exhibited on permanent display in HINTON: Treasures of Australian Art, to provide an opportunity for new and returning audiences to re-discover The Howard Hinton Collection.
The heritage-listed Armidale Teachers’ College is a significant contributor to the identity of the New England region, and is home to many community and cultural organisations.