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The Heide Story

Heide began life in 1934 as the home of John and Sunday Reed and has since evolved into one of Australia’s most important cultural institutions.

Soon after purchasing the fifteen acre property, the Reeds opened their home to like-minded individuals such as artists Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval and Danila Vassilieff. They nurtured a circle of artists, writers and intellectuals who contributed to Heide becoming a place for the discussion, creation and promotion of modern art and literature.

Sunday, Sweeney and John Reed, 1953, photographer unknown

John and Sunday made a lasting contribution to Australian culture through their support of creative endeavours, from helping found the Contemporary Art Society in 1938 to promoting progressive writers and the famous Angry Penguins magazine through their publishing firm Reed and Harris in the 1940s. In the mid-1950s the Reeds established the Melbourne-based Gallery of Contemporary Art and in 1958, with the assistance of friend and entrepreneur Georges Mora, they re-launched the gallery as the Museum of Modern Art of Australia. This eventually led to the formal establishment of the museum in Bulleen.

John and Sunday Reed 1962, photograph: Nadine Amadio

John and Sunday Reed 1962, photograph: Nadine Amadio

Albert Tucker, John Reed, Joy Hester, Sunday Reed Carrying Sweeney and Sidney Nolan 1945,gelatin silver photograph, 30.4 x 40.3 cm, gift of Barbara Tucker 2001

Albert Tucker, John Reed, Joy Hester, Sunday Reed Carrying Sweeney and Sidney Nolan 1945,gelatin silver photograph, 30.4 x 40.3 cm, gift of Barbara Tucker 2001

John reading the newspaper, Heide Modern c.1975, photographer unknown

John reading the newspaper, Heide Modern c.1975, photographer unknown

Amassing an outstanding collection of the contemporary art of their time, the Reeds outgrew their original farmhouse, now known as the Heide Cottage, and in 1963 commissioned the promising young architect David McGlashan to design a ‘gallery to be lived in’. Now regarded as an exemplar of modernist architecture in Australia, this iconic building opened as a public art museum in November 1981 following its purchase by the State Government on behalf of the people of Victoria. John and Sunday both died shortly afterwards in December 1981, ten days apart. They are remembered as champions of modern art and literature and remain two of Australia’s most important art benefactors.

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