A national treasure of a painting that unknowingly hung in a family home for decades will be donated to a museum for all Australians to enjoy.
A piece of art called The Bushwalkers hung over the Christmas tree at Tracy Nickl’s grandparents’ house in the Blue Mountains when he was growing up.
Nickl had no idea of the significance of the well-known painting or that it was a lost gem by pioneering Australian artist Freda Robertshaw from the 1940s.
While cleaning up the property following the recent death of his father, Mr. Nickl came across his grandparents’ beloved art collection.
The award-winning confectioner from the NSW Southern Highlands originally planned to give the paintings away to charity.
But she had second thoughts and approached her neighbor, prominent Australian artist Ben Quilty, who “reluctantly” agreed to view the collection.
This rare Freda Robertshaw painting from her grandparents’ art collection was almost given away by Tracy Nickl.
Quilty realized its significance as soon as he saw the signature of The Bushwalkers and Robertshaw on the reverse. He called an art dealer, who immediately offered him $600,000.
Despite being told the painting would sell for as much as $1 million or more at auction, Nickl and the family decided to donate the work to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra in honor of grandparents Joe and Josie.
“My grandfather was someone who collected art, especially Australian art, and he liked to meet the artist,” Nickl said. ABC Illawarra Breakfast.
‘I was at my grandparents’ house and I had been there all my life and all my parents’ lives.
“We didn’t do anything with my grandparents’ house until my father recently passed away and we had to clean it out.”
Mr. Nickl’s aunt, Jo Frater, admitted that she hated the artwork in her parents’ house.
‘I never liked painting. I never liked it,” he told Seven News.
After receiving advice from artist Ben Quilty (second left), Tracy Nickl (back right) has donated the painting to the National Gallery of Australia.
Freda Robertshaw’s Bushwalkers piece hung over the Christmas tree at the home of Joe (pictured) and Josie Nickl
Quilty recalled “reluctantly” saying yes when initially asked to look at the collection.
‘What a jerk!’ Quilty said this week. ‘When an appraiser told me over the phone that it was worth almost a million dollars, I cried, for Freda, for the Nickl family.
‘But I literally cried when a week later, Tracy came back to my studio to tell me that the entire Nickl family had decided to donate Freda’s rare gem to the National Gallery of Australia in memory of her grandparents, Joe and Josie Nickl.’
Quilty considers the artwork to be a masterpiece by one of the great artists of modernist Australia.
“It was always hanging in a prime spot, behind the Christmas tree, Tracy told me,” Quibility said.
Grandpa painted the frame to match the architraves!
‘The world doesn’t always run smoothly but my gosh the Nickl family you made my day. Freda would be a happy human today.
Joe Nickl’s grandson Tracy (pictured) runs a popular patisserie in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
The painting that took pride of place over the Christmas tree for years in the Nickl home is now valued at at least $1 million.
Freda Robertshaw was an Australian artist and painter of neoclassical figures and landscapes. She was also the first Australian artist to paint a completely nude self-portrait. She died in 1997 at the age of 80.
Nickl has no regrets, saying his grandparents’ legacy is more important than money.
“Money doesn’t excite me that much to be honest, I was more excited for my grandfather and I always knew he himself was an amazing craftsman and recognized skills in whatever form it took,” he told ABC.
They would not see each other again and my grandfather would not have approved.
The painting delivered to the gallery this week is in need of some much-needed repairs.
It will be on display at the National Gallery of Australia from October and could eventually be part of a traveling exhibition across Australia.
The artwork painted by Freda Robertshaw (pictured) will soon be on public display in Canberra.