Bolton Australiana collection marks 60th anniversary

Many people collect things, but hardly anyone can lay claim to the Prime Minister officially opening and acknowledging the cultural and historic significance of their collection.

Few collectors could match the extraordinary passion of Toowoomba entrepreneur and philanthropist, the late W. R. F. (Bill) Bolton MBE (1905-1973) and his late wife, Marion.

Mr Bolton’s vision to assemble a collection of Australian cultural items was realised on April 4, 1959 when then Prime Minister Robert Menzies opened the Lionel Lindsay Art Gallery and Library in Godsall Street, Toowoomba. The collection was named in honour of Bolton’s friend, noted Australian artist Sir Lionel Lindsay.

A new exhibition, Bill Bolton’s Vision – 60 Years On, will open at Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery on Saturday, April 6 to recognise Bill Bolton’s foresight and his outstanding contribution to Australia’s cultural life.

The exhibition, which will run to July 21 at Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, will be opened by Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio along with special guest Nick Mitzevich, the Director of the National Gallery of Australia and a Trustee of the Lionel Lindsay Gallery and Library.

Mayor Antonio said Council was delighted to honour the Boltons’ efforts to establish a nationally significant collection of Australian artworks and printed materials, which also is known as the Bolton Collection, which has been housed at Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery since 1994.

“The Gallery houses more than 400 works of art dating from the 1880s and around 3000 printed materials, including books and maps from the early 1600s and manuscripts from the 1780s,” Mayor Antonio said.

“Such a focussed group of artworks, literature, journals, manuscripts and maps would not be out of place in any of the major art galleries or libraries around Australia.

cobbco“This collection is a treasure trove of art works which serves as a unique time capsule and is part of our region’s rich traditions.

“Anyone with a passing interest in the early exploration of the Great South Land and later discoveries would marvel at the rare and unique works which can be perused at the Bolton Reading Room.

“I thank the current trustees, headed by chair David Bolton, for their ongoing commitment to perpetuate the vision of Bill and Marion Bolton. I encourage residents to visit the exhibition to gain a new appreciation of a special collection in their own backyard.”

Lionel Lindsay Gallery and Library background details:

Apart from operating an accountancy business and later a transport company (which he renamed Cobb & Co. Redman Transport), Bill Bolton was a keen admirer of Australian history, art and literature.

Bolton and noted Australian artist Sir Lionel Lindsay shared a belief that cultural collections in regional centres could, in some way, “civilise Australia”.

The idea that everything old is new again, struck a particular chord with Lionel Lindsay and his brother Norman, who were influenced by the ideals and art of the ancient Greeks.

At the 1959 opening, Sir Lionel praised Bolton’s efforts to preserve Australian traditions.

Australian Impressionists Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin, and the Lindsay siblings Percy, Lionel, Norman, Ruby and Daryl, are represented in the gallery collection.

A remarkable assortment of rare and out-of-print publications relating to voyages of discovery in the South Pacific, European exploration and settlement of Australia, Australian natural history, and Australian art and literature (especially of The Bulletin School) form part of the library collection.

Historic treasures include first editions of Captain Cook’s journals and letters written by the ill-fated scientist-explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, who travelled through the Darling Downs in the 1840s.

Residents can read manuscript poems and letters by Henry Lawson and volumes recounting voyages of discovery by Matthew Flinders, William Dampier and Comte de la Perouse among others.

In his opening speech in 1959 Prime Minister Menzies said: “I hope that for centuries to come people will come more and more to find in this place something of pride in their own country and something of the divine fire in the imagination which is always stimulated by looking at a great picture or a great drawing.”

Bolton’s interests and generosity extended to donating funds to establish the Blue Nursing Service in Toowoomba, offering bursaries for country children to attend private schools and a life-long involvement in the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

His collection of original, horse-drawn vehicles is housed at Toowoomba’s Cobb & Co Museum.

Bolton’s legacy is a collection of rare, antiquarian items that promises to open a new world to any viewer.

The 60th anniversary exhibition has been curated by Bolton Library Services officer Jayson Althofer.

Access to library items and other collection materials not on exhibition is by appointment at the Gallery, 531 Ruthven Street, Toowoomba; phone 4688 6652; or email 

A range of specialist tours and talks will be held during the exhibition to highlight specific features of the collection with other activities organised for children. These date include:

Twilight Tour

The cultural power and potential of the Lindsay Collection

Thursday, 18 April at 5.30pm
Presented by Jayson Althofer and Sue Lostroh,
Regional Coordinator Art Galleries and Cultural Services
RSVP by noon, Tuesday, 16 April

Activating Art
Tuesday 23 April at 9.30am
Stories and activities for children aged 3-5 years
Call 131 872 to book your child’s place

Sunday Session
Bush poetry in motion: Bill Bolton and the painter Ivor Hele
Sunday, 12 May at 1.30pm
Presented by Jayson Althofer
RSVP by noon, Thursday 9 May

Sunday Session
A collection of geniuses: Bill Bolton and the Lindsay family
Sunday, 9 June at 1.30pm
Presented by Jayson Althofer
RSVP by noon, Thursday 6 June

Twilight Tour
From the vault: Up close and personal with Lionel Lindsay’s prints
Thursday, 18 July at 5.30pm
Presented by Jayson Althofer, Bolton Library Services officer; Tiffany Shafran, Coordinator Exhibitions and Public Programs; and Shona Burgess and Rob Bolton, Trustees of the Lionel Lindsay Gallery and Library
RSVP by noon, Tuesday 16 July

David RAPOPORT and Leá RAPOPORT / W.R.F. Bolton / colour photograph / 27.0 x 34.5 cm / Lionel Lindsay Gallery and Library Collection 457

Lionel LINDSAY 1874-1961 / Cobb & Co. n.d. (1925) / drypoint (proof) / inscribed by the artist ‘To Cobb and Co from Lionel Lindsay’ / 21.8 x 30.0cm / Lionel Lindsay Gallery and Library Collection 341 / © National Library of Australia

Last Updated: Thursday, 04 April 2019 15:39
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