The O'Grady Collection is a one of the founding collections of the Gallery and is held in high esteem by the local community. The majority of works in this wonderful collection of over 1,500 works was gifted to the gallery in 1988 by Doris O'Grady and is comprised of watercolours, drawings, landscapes, still life, sketch books, note books, field studies and bark collages completed over the sisters' lifetimes, along with memorabilia. The collection includes work by their sister Phyllis Winwood-Smith (nee O'Grady).
The works of Gladys and Doris O'Grady are a distinct feature of the Grafton Regional Gallery's collection.
The O'Grady Collection is a one of the founding collections of the Gallery and is held in high esteem by the local community. The majority of works in this wonderful collection of over 1,500 works was gifted to the gallery in 1988 by Doris O'Grady and is comprised of watercolours, drawings, landscapes, still life, sketch books, note books, field studies and bark collages completed over the sisters' lifetimes, along with memorabilia. The collection includes work by their sister Phyllis Winwood-Smith (nee O'Grady) and has been developed over the years with significant donations from the O'Grady family and from the community and acquisitions by the Gallery.
Gladys O'Grady (1894-1985) and Doris O'Grady (1902-1994) were keen observers of the natural environment. They were life members of the Clarence Valley Naturalists Club, Members of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union and were notable botanists and gardeners. Most of their lives were spent on the family property Tristania at Seelands located on the inner bend of the Clarence River west of Grafton. The rainforest gullies and river banks, home to a myriad of native species of flora and fauna, and the rural and river landscapes of the Seelands peninsula were the sisters' main subject matter. The specific geographic and climatic conditions of this region provide an overlap zone for temperate and tropical bird and plant species. The sisters also travelled extensively throughout Australia as evidenced by works, notebooks and sketchbooks created in places such as Tasmania and Western Australia.
The O'Grady sisters painted not for fame or fortune but for themselves. They sold work privately, entered local exhibitions and took part in many festive occasions in Grafton and the surrounds. They were well known in the local arts community as they made regular contributions to the annual Grafton Art Club exhibition and regularly entered the Jacaranda Art Prize. The Jacaranda Art Society in 1977 hosted an exhibition A tribute to the O'Grady's which showcased the work of Gladys and Doris O'Grady. Australian Birds and their Young, a selection of Gladys O'Grady's bird watercolours, was published in 1979 with the support of Heather Roland. A year after the launch of the book it was featured in a short documentary film made by Graham and Lucy Jackson, titled A Bend in the River. This film gives a unique insight into the sisters' lives at Tristania.
In 1983 Doris purchased a house in Grafton and Gladys moved in with her until her death in 1985. Doris continued to paint and live in this house until her death in 1994. Tristania remains within the O'Grady family who reside on and farm the 60 hectare property.
The highly developed drawing skills of the O'Grady sisters are evident in their compositions which have strength, great charm and beauty. Gladys' paintings and drawings of bird species are ornithologically accurate depictions and naturalistic portrayals of birds in their environment. Her compositions capture the character of the species in the field. Her work has fresh, energetic and sophisticated expression that demonstrates her mastery of materials and subject matter.
Doris O'Grady's artistic focus was on the landscape and flora studies. She painted and tabulated all native grasses, plants, flowers, and fungi of the region. This perhaps reflects how Doris carried out much of the outside farm work. Her vibrant loose watercolours and beautifully constructed bark collages demonstrate a great talent, confidence and highly developed skills in the medium and subject matter. The sisters' style remained unaffected and of their period. Their work records the twentieth century's change and impact on the regional landscape and flora and fauna species.
Since the establishment of the Grafton Regional Gallery in 1988 many exhibitions have been curated celebrating the work of the O'Grady sisters.