This is a unique collection of artworks defined by the vision of one person.

Alan (Tony) Cleary has had a lifetime passion for the visual arts. In the 1970s he started visiting commercial galleries in Sydney’s CBD and Paddington, reading up on the critics’ reviews and art journals. His passion for art grew, and he decided to start his own collection.

When first collecting he set himself a limit of $500 a painting, the limit set on his Bankcard. Alan Cleary had always lived in small city apartments, so rather than having one large painting dominate a room, he preferred a series of smaller works hung throughout his domestic spaces. This strategy cunningly also allowed him to buy more art.

As he became a more knowledgeable collector and he began to define his collecting tastes, Alan was able to collect small works by some of Australia’s most significant artists with the collection including works by Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Lloyd Rees, Nora Heysen. With contemporary artists including works by Elizabeth Cummings, Tom Carment, Jenny Sages, Janet Dawson and Wendy Sharpe, Maeve Woods, and Angus Nivison among many others.

2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the first donation Alan made from his collection to the people of the Hawkesbury.

As Curator, Diana Robson recalls : He was a very determined character, and quite surprising in many ways. He lived alone in an unassuming house near the railway line in Wyong. As anyone who visited would tell you, it seemed an unlikely place for a large collection of artworks to be housed.

A. E. (Tony) Cleary

Alan is the great grandson of Thomas Cleary who, as a seven year-old boy, emigrated from Waterford Ireland and settled at Pitt Town Bottoms in 1830. The Cleary family has had a continuous association with the Hawkesbury since then.

One of ten children, Alan was born in Windsor in 1936. He was educated in Pitt Town and Richmond, where he completed the Leaving Certificate in 1954. He commenced employment at Windsor Court House, and later qualified as a solicitor. He also completed his National Service Training in the Royal Australian Air Force.

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