The Lewers Bequest of 1978 established Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest at the former home and property of Australian artists Gerald and Margo Lewers. In the 1940s, Gerald and Margo – two leading artists in the development of modernism in Australian art – bought the property. In 1950 they made it their permanent home and studio.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Lewers’ home – with its beautiful gardens, architecture, artworks and creative environment – was known as a place of style, innovation and hospitality. As Patrick White wrote:
ideas hurtled, argument flared, voices shouted, sparks flew … the (Lewers) house provides one of the focus points of our still tentative civilisation.
Following Gerald’s death in 1962, Margo continued to live and work at Emu Plains until she died in 1978. Prior to her death, Margo began the process of bequeathing her home and collection of artworks to the local community. In 1980, honouring their mother’s wishes, daughters Darani and Tanya generously and without condition donated the site, buildings, gardens and a substantial collection of art, including works by Gerald, Margo and their contemporaries, to Penrith City Council. Subsequently, Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest was opened and the vision to create a centre of excellence for the presentation and appreciation of art for the community was attained.
In launching the Gallery in August 1981, New South Wales Premier Neville Wran said:
Gerald and Margo Lewers’ contribution to Australian art was of signal importance. Their energies, and those of their contemporaries, set new directions for the visual arts in our country.
From that time the Gallery has honoured the Lewers’ contribution, and this extraordinary bequest, by presenting exhibitions, education and workshop programs and special events of excellence, ambition and integrity. The unique nature of the Gallery, with its artistic and architectural heritage, galleries, gardens and collection, forms an educational and recreational resource that is recognised nationally and internationally. A model for the development of many regional galleries in Australia, the Gallery is committed to access, cultural democracy and the highest of standards in all aspects of its programs and management.
Each year tens of thousands of visitors delight in the Gallery’s dynamic exhibitions, events, education programs, splendid gardens and café – each visit a testament to the vision and legacy of Gerald and Margo Lewers and the generosity of the Lewers Bequest.