70 Foster Street, Sale

Gippsland Art Gallery

o celebrate the centenary of his birth, The John Leslie Gift presents an eclectic range of artworks and objects donated to the Gallery from the estate of John Leslie OBE (1919-2016). The exhibition provides the opportunity for visitors to learn more about Sale’s greatest patron of the arts, and to gain an insight into his own collection, accumulated over the course of a lifetime. John Leslie was a former Councillor of Sale City Council (1957-67) and served as Mayor of Sale from 1961 to 1964. During his time on Council John established the Sale Arts Festival and the Sale Regional Arts Centre, which later became the Gippsland Art Gallery. John provided valuable support for many other causes in Sale, such as the Sale Botanic Gardens, Sale Elderly Citizen’s Village, Sale Regional Hospital, the Sale Tennis Club, and The Wedge Entertainment Centre. The exhibition includes works by well-known artists, such as Rick Amor’s portrait of John, Annemieke Mein’s Pittosporum Undulatum, two works by glass artist Crystal Stubbs, and an early work by celebrated Australian Impressionist Clara Southern. But alongside these works are a range of artworks and objects that reveal the private side of John, and collectively reveal the story of his life. A highlight will be a painting produced by John himself while taking evening art classes at the Sale Technical School in the 1960s. A painting of Nambrok House by Val Joyce reveals John’s connection to this iconic Gippsland homestead through his maternal grandparents, the Widdis Family. A mural work by Bertha Merfield, from around 1910, was rescued by John from Nambrok House after it was sold in the 1950s, and became his favourite artwork. John’s collections of jade ornaments and Lalique glassware also provide an account of his travels, which he undertook regularly after retiring from W.D. Leslie’s Department Store in 1969. A particularly moving work is the posthumous portrait of John’s only brother, Jim, who was killed in action during World War Two. The collection, as a whole, reveals the warmth and generosity of a man who by nature was humble and modest. Brian Castles, Trustee of the John Leslie Foundation states: “John was modest, articulate and cultured, always well groomed, a true gentleman. He was regarded as a visionary in Council and achieved a great deal for the community of Sale. When a movement to establish an Art Gallery in Sale began, John as Mayor led it to fruition and donated the first group of art works for the collection.” The new Gippsland Art Gallery would not have been possible without the support of John Leslie, and we are privileged to present this exhibition, which highlights John’s longstanding contribution to artistic life in Sale.