Joseph Brown, Australia’s leading art dealer, died at 91 last month. Born in Poland, Brown emigrated to Australia as teenager, according to The Age:
In 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Army and served with the 13th Armoured Regiment (AIF) until 1945. That year he married Estelle Smith and set up J. Brown Mantles, a fashion design business in Flinders Lane. He specialised in evening gowns, but also continued to paint and make sculpture, exhibiting his work occasionally.
In 1967, his life changed. He sold his fashion business, bought the imposing Victorian mansion, Caroline House, in Caroline Street, South Yarra, and established himself as a commercial art dealer, with premises at 5 Collins Street, Melbourne. Brown had found his vocation, and for the next 15 years the Joseph Brown Gallery held numerous survey exhibitions of historical, modern and contemporary art, as well as solo exhibitions by Australia’s most prominent artists.
His taste was broad and inclusive, and he promoted many artists and genres that had become unfashionable to collectors and academics, including colonial art, marine painting, women artists, sculpture and portraiture. Importantly, he rediscovered the significance of John Russell, Australia’s ”lost” Impressionist who lived on Belle Ile off Brittany; he was a friend of Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse – the latter crediting Russell as his teacher. […]
Between 1966 and 1999, Brown donated 460 works of art to public collections. In addition, in 2004, he made what was described by then premier Steve Bracks as the ”largest and most generous gift of 19th and 20th century Australian art to any Australian gallery” – 154 works worth $30 million to the National Gallery of Victoria.
Benevolent Titan of the Art World (The Age)