By Terry Ingram, on 28-May-2016

Well known Sydney gallery owner Tom Mathieson has passed away at his Sydney home, aged 79 years.

Tom Mathieson appears to have impressed most people who came to know him as the antithesis of the modern art dealer.

He was the most blokey person, even in that part of the art world he chose to operate in, that one was likely to encounter.

In his youth, he was an Australian champion weightlifter in bantamweight division, setting an Australian record twice in consecutive lifts in winning the title (mid 1950s). He took up the sport in his youth after being diagnosed with a heart problem.

Mathieson who died last week did a lot to lift appreciation of Australian art.

He would purchase work by Norman Lindsay, Pro Hart and other traditional artists and much of it ended up in the fancy equivalent of men's sheds.

He publicly bought a Lindsay showing a woman clenching an apple in a place it would've have been difficult to bite.

This however, traced back to the type of clientele he pursued and it fed funds into the market as a whole, lifting the prices of artists who were struggling.

He came to  public attention in the million dollar plus exhibitions held at the former EMI pavilion in the Sydney Showground in the early 1980s.

He was joined in these by Trevor Bussell who came from the world of advertising and applied his skills in PR to the operation, and then abandoned it for a more deluxe operation in Sydney's Paddington. He had a great sense of humour and did not hide his sense of fun, something he shared with Trevor Bussell, who later left the country.

Another of Mathieson's competitors in the investment art market, Ron Coles, also left the scene after it was established that he was selling a lot of stock to multiple buyers. For this he was sentenced by the courts.

Mathieson opened his Ramsgate based Australian Art & Investment Gallery in 1998 and dealt from there until 2009, but even after it closed, he continued to deal with old clients and new enquirers, even into this year.

Mathieson emerged as the only person in that particular business field, located in the outer Sydney suburban belt to survive with his reputation untarnished.

As the clients for the traditional art he dealt in, fell away he missed more than ever the colour and characters of the art market and its heightened dehumanisation. His blunt bonhomies will be sorely missed by those who met him on the racecourse or in the saleroom.

His funeral service took place on 1st June, 2016 at Rookwood Crematorium, Sydney. The service was well attended and a fitting tribute to his varied life, with friends and acquaintances from different walks of life in attendance.

About The Author

Terry Ingram inaugurated the weekly Saleroom column for the Australian Financial Review in 1969 and continued writing it for nearly 40 years. His scoops include the Whitlam Government's purchase of Blue Poles in 1973 and repeated fake scandals (from contemporary art to antique silver) and auction finds. He has closely followed the international art, collectors and antique markets to this days. Terry has also written two books on the subjects