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S.H. Ervin Gallery

Posted on November 24, 2007 - Filed Under Sydney Art Gallery

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The S.H. Ervin Gallery is housed in the National Trust Centre on Observatory Hill at The Rocks. It offers a diverse range of exhibitions covering different facets of Australian art from historical to contemporary. The gallery is also renowned for recognising the valuable contribution women have made to Australian art. It hosts seven exhibitions each year and is an ideal venue for exploring Australia’s cultural heritage.

Each Sunday at 3:00pm the SH Ervin Gallery plays host to an array of guest speakers. Exhibition floor talks are also held every Tuesday at 12:00pm. Talks are included with entry.

Art Gallery High Tea


In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie selected the site for use as a military hospital. It served Fort Phillip, a defence centre protecting the colony against insurrection. The military left the area for Victoria Barracks in Paddington in 1850.

The National Trust Centre, which houses the gallery, was built on the site in 1856 to provide extra classroom accommodation for Fort Street School, one of the State’s leading educational institutions at the time.

In 1911, the school was split into three separate schools – Fort Street Public School, Fort Street Boys’ High School and Fort Street Girls’ High School. Fort Street Public School remained on Observatory Hill, but in different buildings. Fort Street Boy’s High School moved to a new site in Petersham and Fort Street Girl’s High School remained until 1974 when the two high schools were amalgamated and the female students moved to the Petersham site.

In the following years, the National Trust secured a lease for the building from the NSW Department of Public Works and in 1978, the S.H. Ervin Gallery was opened to the public by NSW Premier, Neville Wran.

Who Was S.H. Ervin?

Samuel Henry Ervin was born in Queensland in 1881. He moved to Sydney when he was just two years old. He grew up in Mosman and frequently visited Sirius Cove, a nearby artists’ camp.

When he left school, he headed to Europe to learn about the wool industry. Upon returning to Sydney, he became a successful woolbroker. However, his interest in art was still strong. He bought and sold artworks, antique furniture and porcelain for most of his life and along the way, acquired many great works himself. These included paintings from Charles Conder, J. J. Hilder, Norman Lindsay, Sydney Long, H. S. Power, Tom Roberts and (Sir) Arthur Streeton.

Ervin was greatly concerned with the protection and presentation of Australia’s art and heritage. He became a great patron of the arts in the 1960s when legislation was passed offering tax exemptions to those who made cultural gifts to the nation. One of Ervin’s contributions was the donation of a large sum of money to restore two buildings on Observatory Hill with the aim of turning them into an art gallery and museum. When he passed away in 1977, much of his estate including many works of art was left to the National Trust.

A portrait of Ervin by Reginald Campbell can be found at the S.H. Ervin Gallery.

Art Work:

The S.H. Ervin gallery is an important art institution of Sydney. It is home to many great artworks including items by Eugene von Guerard, Arthur Streeton, Conrad Martens, Donald Friend, Nora Heysen and Thea Proctor.

The changing exhibitions at the S.H. Ervin Gallery are of a consistently high standard and focus on Australian art. Artists that have shown their work here include Lloyd Rees, Sidney Nolan, Hans Heysen, Ken Done and Russell Drysdale.

Several annual events are also held at the gallery. These include the Salon des Refusés (which shows many of the works rejected by the Archibald Prize and some rejected by the Wynne Prize), the Portia Geach Memorial Award (for women artists) and The Year in Art (which highlights contemporary art in Sydney).

Art Gallery High Tea

Important Information


The S.H. Ervin Gallery is located on Observatory Hill at the Rocks. It is on Watson Road with entry from Argyle Street. To get there take a train to Wynyard or Circular Quay and walk. Alternatively, buses 308, 339, 343, X43, X39, 431, 432, 433 and 434 will take you to Argyle Street. From there walk up Watson Road and follow the signs.

Parking is also available on site.

Nearby Attractions:

Nearby attractions include The Rocks, The Sydney Observatory and Susannah Place Museum.

Opening Hours:

The gallery is open 11:00am-5:00pm Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on public holidays.


General admission is $7.00 Au, or $4.00 Au for members. Admission is free for children under 12.

Additional admission fees apply for selected exhibitions.

Food Services:

The National Trust Café is located on site.

Other Services:

The gallery is also home to a library, a bookshop and a gift shop.


The gallery is wheelchair accessible

Contact Details:

You can contact the gallery directly on (02) 9258 0173.

For more information and to find out what exhibitions are currently running, please visit the S.H. Ervin Gallery website at:

Have You Visited the S.H. Ervin Gallery?

Please share your experiences of or questions about the S.H. Ervin Gallery in the comments box below.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 24th, 2007 at 9:05 pm and is filed under Sydney Art Gallery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


8 Responses to “S.H. Ervin Gallery”

  1. John Harmon on December 14th, 2007 8:17 pm

    I haven’t been to the gallery, but I am anxious to get the opportunity to visit such an important institution of Sydney.

  2. madi Maclean on April 8th, 2011 1:51 pm

    The front of the building waas built by macquarie. There is a date on the front o0f thebuilding (1814?) 1856 date must be the addition at the back where the gallery actually is (the school science labs)

    youd think the national trust could get that right!

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  6. Andrew Nichols on July 31st, 2012 8:40 am

    Can’t wait for the David Boyd exhibition in August/Sept. (as mentioned in the Qantas mag 08/12) – Wife and I are avid fans and have several of his works in oil, lithograph, and prints gracing our home (would love an invite to the exhibition opening!)

  7. Tonny on November 14th, 2015 2:09 pm

    I want to see that some day. It’s a great shot.I must be either brave or suptid to throw my amateurish photos in here with the big dogs. I’m thinking of taking your next eclass if I can work it out.

  8. Vivien Kells on January 26th, 2016 9:41 pm

    Would like to discuss if a Margaret Clark would be likely to be included in the collection.

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