One may not think so, but Dalby art history holds some insights into the evolution of Queensland and Australian modern art. Artists such as Roy Churcher and Mervyn Moriarty taught locals through the Flying art School in the seventies. And many well know Australian artists in their early careers entered in the Dalby Art Prize. All this became possible when a few members of the community joined the Dalby Art Group
The Dalby Art Group
In 1958, Mrs Dorothy Bell of the Commonwealth Bank formed the Dalby Art Group. A group of enthusiastic amateurs who were confident enough to hold their first art exhibition in 1959 (November 6th). The group met at the local show grounds or at field days. Don Featherston travelled from Toowoomba each month to teach watercolour techniques. Don’s classes were conducted with the help of the Adult Education Department.
Ron Murray, also of Toowoomba replaced Don Featherston as an instructor in 1962 and provided tutelage in both water colours and oils. Herb Carsten played a major roll in the art group for several years, instructing the group in traditional landscape. Other instructors included Len Blacklow, David Fowler and Alex Roteveel.
From 1968, Mervyn Moriarty sometimes gave lessons and seminars to the group. Once his flying art school became operational in 1971 the Dalby art group benefited from four seminars a year.
While learning techniques and skills the artists of the group also held an annual art exhibitions until 1962
Dalby held centenary celebrations in 1963, as part of the festivities the Dalby art group ran an art competition. Prize money for the competitions was £130 (£100 for the open oil section and £30 for the open water colour section). The competition was open to the whole state, which resulted in 142 artworks in a wide range of styles. With a large percentage of the paintings being modern in nature it was Dalby’s introduction to the modernist art movement. The exhibition was on display for public viewing in Knox Chambers.
Mr Laurie Thomas of the Queensland National Gallery judged the competition. Awarding the prize for the oil section to Irene Amos and the water colour section to Joy Roggencamp. Prizes were not acquisitive but funds raised from the competition saw the Dalby art group buy a painting to present to Dalby Council. The painting purchased was “The Malting Towers” by Toowoomba artist Herb Carstens.
Presentation of the painting was in November 1963. The event was a film evening of Australian artists. The film screened (kindly loaned by QANTAS) featured artists Thysdale, Nolan and Dobell. The Mayor, Alderman Charles Drew received the painting on the towns behalf.
During the presentation meeting it was expressed that the painting would form the basis of a future art collection of Dalby. Community interest in that art groups activities, saw recommendations for the competition to become an ongoing event.