Heide, the home of John and Sunday Reed, is an iconic landmark in Australian cultural history. The role of Heide and the Reeds has been extensively dissected, analysed and discussed, with flavours of the many accounts ranging from portrayals of intellectual flowerings in an antipodean Bloomsbury, to deflowerings more carnal than intellectual amidst the predations of a most disquieting muse. Heide is perhaps best known as the place where Sidney Nolan’s landmark first Ned Kelly series was painted and where he lived in a ménage a trois with Sunday and John for several years during the 1940s. Those years were to have a profound and enduring influence not only on the rest of their own lives, but on the direction of art in Australia.
Born into Melbourne’s prominent and prosperous Baillieu family, Sunday grew up privileged and acquired an early appreciation and love of art from her mother. She met John Reed, the Cambridge-educated lawyer son of a wealthy Tasmanian pastoralist, at a Toorak tennis party and they married in 1932. With wealth allowing them to indulge their growing passion for modernism, and a circle of friends including modern artists and architects, psychiatrists and politicians, they began a lifelong commitment to collecting and patronising the arts. In 1934-5 they purchased an old farmhouse and some six hectares at Heidelberg, and Heide, as their affectionately abbreviated retreat became known, was to be their home for almost 50 years. It was also home and haven to a procession of avant-garde artists, for the Reeds not only bought works by artists, but mentored and financially supported them. Acclaimed artists like Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval, Danila Vassilieff and Charles Blackman were fostered and assisted at Heide, but not without some tensions. Blackman’s wife Barbara remembers Sunday telling her ‘artists should not have wives.’
Before the Reeds died in 1981, Heide – by now a magnificent property of several hectares of landscaped lawns and gardens boasting two significant residences, the old farmhouse known as Heide I and the McGlashan and Everist designed award-winning ‘gallery to be lived in’ Heide II – had been acquired by the Victorian State Government together with much of the extensive Reed collection.
Today, with further large gallery spaces, it is the Heide Museum of Modern Art – not only a leading cultural institution, but a tranquil haven close to the centre of a bustling metropolis where it is possible to relax, stroll, walk, dine, think, and enjoy breathtaking works of art.
Heide’s website is www.heide.com.au
Posts on Heide (including ones relating to John and Sunday Reed and other Heide habitués) include:
Proposed posts on Heide, either in preparation or planned, include:
A Night to Remember:
Nolan’s La Belle Dame sans Merci
Paradise Garden Revisited
Soria Moria: a play
Heide bibliography: books, essays, catalogues and articles
Reed & Harris