One of Australia's most important private art collections is about to be auctioned for charity

Glenrowan, 1955, by Sidney Nolan. Image courtesy of Deutscher and Hackett

James Fairfax helped build a great media empire through the newspaper business his great-grandfather, John Fairfax, founded and used that success to indulge in a passion for art.

The businessman and philanthropist bought his first artwork aged just 12 and over his lifetime amassed one of the nation’s finest private art collections featuring leading Australian artists and Europeans old masters, donating works to the Art Gallery of NSW and the National Gallery of Australia over many decades.

When the former chairman of John Fairfax Ltd and Rich lister worth more than $300 million, died in January this year, aged 83, he donated his historic $20 million family home, Retford Park, to the National Trust. It opens to the public soon.

Minarets, Cairo, 1897, by Arthur Streeton. Image courtesy of Deutscher and Hackett

Tonight, Fairfax’s last act of generosity will take place when 54 works from his art collection are auctioned by Deutscher and Hackett in Sydney. The estimated $6 million in proceeds will go to a range of children’s charities.

The James Fairfax Collection includes works by Sydney Nolan, John Brack, Jeffrey Smart, Tom Roberts, John Olsen, Fred Williams and Margaret Preston, among others.

The top work is an 1861 landscape by Eugene von Guerard, Mr John King’s Station, with a price estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million, while Nolan’s Glenrowan, another Ned Kelly painting from 1955, is priced at $600,000 to $800,000.

Arthur Streeton’s 1897 work Minarets, Cairo, has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000 and Jeffrey Smart’s Miss Amhurst’s First Visit To Rome is expected to fetch up to $400,000.

Proceeds from the sale will go to a charitable foundation to benefit causes that Fairfax supported during his lifetime including the Children’s Medical Research Institute, Westmead Children’s Hospital and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The full catalogue of all the Fairfax works is here.

The Fairfax collection auction will be held at The Cell Block Theatre, at the National Art School, in Sydney at 7pm on Wednesday, August 30.

Miss Amhurst’s First Visit To Rome by Jeffrey Smart. Image courtesy of Deutscher and Hackett

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