It is a rare and happy occurrence to have the pleasure of not only working with beautiful pieces of art, furniture, and objects, but also to tell the story of two people who have played such significant roles – both individually and together – in the public and intellectual life of this country. In March 2022, Leonard Joel will offer The Gordon and Jackie Samuels Collection, including objects of both personal and artistic significance, most notably Jeffrey Smart’s E.U.R. II 1965.
The Hon. Gordon Samuels AC CVO QC (1923-2007) is perhaps most recognised for his time as the Governor of NSW from 1996-2001. However, his long and distinguished career began as a barrister, then a QC, from where he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1972. In 1976, he became the longest-serving Chancellor of the University of NSW, holding that role for 18 years. Gordon Samuels and Jacqueline Kott (1927-2021) married in 1957.
Jackie rose to prominence as an actor in radio, television, film, and particularly on the stage in the 1950s and 60s. Among other roles, she was renowned for her ground-breaking performance as Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Alongside her work as an actor, Jackie was a committed supporter of the Arts and helped establish the Australian National Playwrights’ Conference, served as an artist member of the Australian Council, was on the board of NIDA and a trustee of the Sydney Opera House.
Gordon and Jackie’s partnership was particularly evident during their time at the University of NSW where they were both committed to creating an environment of academic rigour alongside community engagement and belonging. This sense of community flowed through to their gubernatorial partnership where they chose, controversially, to reside in their house in Bronte instead of living at Government House. During these years they remained fixtures in the neighbourhood, passers-by greeting Gordon with “morning, Gov” and Jackie continuing to do the weekly shop at the Randwick Shopping Centre. As Jackie said, “I have always thought that if I had time and capacity then I should do some good. It sounds very dull and worthy but I think it’s natural.”
During their long marriage and life partnership, Gordon and Jackie amassed a number of artefacts of personal and artistic significance. There are those they inherited, for instance, the carpets from Jackie’s father Max Kott and the silverware from Gordon’s mother Zelda, and those they collected together. There were paintings they bought from galleries when on official visits or from friends, and of course, Gordon’s favourite Jeffrey Smart. He loved the painting’s enigmatic quality, and would say (with a wink), “When I came in this morning, they were only halfway up the steps. They’ve made good progress today.”
A preliminary sketch for E.U.R. II can be found in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW. Its sister painting
E.U.R. I is in the collection of the Newcastle Art Gallery and currently on display in the exhibition Jeffrey Smart at the National Gallery of Australia (11 Dec 2021 – 15 May 2022), celebrating 100 years since the artist’s birth.
We look forward to presenting pieces from Gordon and Jackie’s collection within our Fine Art auction in Melbourne on 22 March 2022, and The Collector’s Auction in Sydney on 29 March 2022.
MADELEINE NORTON / Decorative Arts & Fine Art Specialist, Sydney
With special thanks to Selina Samuels
Banner Image: Gordon and Jackie Samuels in their younger days