Discover Mosman Art Trail Where Paintings Come To Life

Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman Council and The Balnaves Foundation are delighted to launch a new open-air cultural experience, The Mosman Art Trail, which takes walkers to 10 scenic locations along a 10-kilometre route. Along the way, they can follow a series of interpretive signs where they can stand and admire the views that inspired 12 notable paintings from Mosman Art Gallery’s The Balnaves Gift. Launched on Tuesday 30 April 2024, The Mosman Art Trail includes QR Codes which visitors can use to listen to a spoken word commentary voiced by acclaimed Australian actor Claudia Karvan.

In 2010 Neil Balnaves AO, long-term Mosman resident, businessman and philanthropist, donated The Balnaves Gift to Mosman Art Gallery and the local community from his personal collection. This extraordinary gift comprised 16 Australian Impressionist and early 20th-century paintings worth more than one million dollars at the time. These evocative artworks depict the area through the eyes of such renowned and beloved Australian artists as Arthur Streeton, Margaret Preston and Elioth Gruner.

Art has been created for countless generations on the land of the Cammeraigal and Borogegal peoples, where rock engravings and other artforms still reflect the artists’ vital connection to Country, and where contemporary Indigenous artists continue their practice today. In parallel with developing the Mosman Art Trail, Mosman Council is also working on a future interpretative signage project acknowledging local sites of significance to First Nations peoples.

The area’s superb natural beauty also inspired 19th century painters who stayed at harbourside artist encampments in bushland at Curlew Camp in Sirius Cove, among them Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts and Charles Conder.

During Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdowns, Neil walked the tracks of Mosman and found great joy experiencing the same scenery depicted in the paintings he donated. He wanted to share that enjoyment with others and first proposed what has become the Mosman Art Trail, with key paintings from The Balnaves Gift reproduced on outdoor signs placed at the artists’ viewpoints. After Neil’s passing in 2022, his wife Diane and children Hamish and Victoria were determined to complete the project in his memory through The Balnaves Foundation.

Hamish Balnaves said: “Dad was always passionate about Australian art and fostering cultural engagement with young people. This new trail brings those two important elements together, giving families and schools a great way to delve into local history and our natural surroundings, and explore how the area has changed since these artworks were painted. It’s about appreciating the unique beauty of Mosman in a much more physical and immediate way, not just looking at the landscape but being in it.”

In addition to the Mosman Art Trail, Mosman Art Gallery has created the Kids Art Trail map with fun and engaging activities for children to do whilst exploring the Trail. Sydney actor Claudia Karvan is the voice of the project – each sign includes a QR code enabling people to hear more about that particular location and painting via their mobile phone.

In an interview in November 2021, Neil spoke about his feeling that The Balnaves Gift represented more to him than simply donating a valuable collection of paintings. “It’s giving an art collection that has meaning to the community,” he said. “You could really then teach children a lot more about art if you can relate it to the community in which they live.”

“Mosman has inspired some of the most important Australian artists and artworks,” said Mosman Art Gallery Director, John Cheeseman. “Our Gallery is committed to sharing the unparalleled artistic legacy of this area, celebrating our First Nations heritage and the works of colonial, post-colonial and contemporary artists. Mosman Art Trail brings works from The Balnaves Gift to the wider public’s gaze, and shines a light on the Mosman Art Collection. It is a unique cultural and physical experience for the community to enjoy, learn about this very special place and be inspired by art and the natural surroundings.”

Mosman Mayor Carolyn Corrigan said, “The Mosman Art Trail will be a wonderful addition to Mosman’s beautiful natural environment, and a very fitting way to remember Neil Balnaves who lived in this area for more than 50 years and was so active in our community.”

Mosman Art Trail is part of the Bondi to Manly walk and includes the Mosman Cultural Walk. Featured paintings include Sydney Harbour by Arthur Streeton, 1895; Sydney Long’s Clifton Gardens, 1905; Ethel Carrick Fox’s Balmoral Beach, 1913; Margaret Preston’s Mosman Bridge, 1927; and the most contemporary work, Jasper Knight’s colourful Spit Bridge Tower, 2015. In total 12 paintings are represented on 10 signs placed at each corresponding view.

/Public Release. View in full here.