Benefactor Bronius (Bob) Sredersas circa 1980
– benefactor to the Arts
His collection of early Australian artists, donated to the Wollongong Art Gallery, was one great gift.
It is possible to buy good paintings here for a song… so I start a collection.
Born 4th Dec, 1910.
Arrived Melbourne May 23, 1950
Billeted at Bonegilla then Wollongong’s Unanderra Hostel.
Worked at Australian Iron and Steel’ Port Kembla works.
Retired 1975 (aged 65).
Passed away May 26, 1982.
Of his early life, there is a fair amount of documentation: from the grandparents who held a bourgeois titular noble rank, “country squires”, and he himself was recognised as entered into the nobility registry of Kovno (Kaunas). His life between the first and second World Wars was registered via his father Maximilian through his civil service postings.
Bronius graduated the Ukmerges State School in 1933 and went to work for the Lithuanian Civil Service for the Department of Security, a highly regarded middle-class position; his assignment was in the police force as a Criminal Records Officer. Soon he completed a course in Chemical Defence and in 1939 was transferred to Vilnius. In 1940, Russia invaded Lithuania. This is where the paper trail finishes.
I lost my country, the Russians were there.
There remains a bsome mystery around Bronius (Bob) Sredersas in the post-war years but we do have a trail of registrations: he was registered in and around Neustadt and Flensburg in Germany, then Kaunas where he worked as an able seaman and managed to visit Greece where he was discharged, with the instructions to return to the DP camp in Flensburg but never did. In October 1949, the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) issued him with a certificate of identity for immigration to Australia.
A close friend, Mr Bach, recalls Bronius telling him that he had been hunted by the Russians as well as by the Germans.
He emigrated to Australia in 1950 where he slipped into obscurity by moving down south of Sydney to find work in the steel mills of Wollongong.
In this new community, the quiet Bob was known as the observer, much preferring to stand back and listen rather than steal the spotlight. He was highly intelligent and well educated, with a strong appreciation for culture, yet remained a quiet soul.
Working in the steel mills by day, Bob lived avery different life at night and on weekends.
Even though he wasn’t an artist, Bob would attend meetings of the Illawarra Arts Society since he appreciated art and loved Australia. His interest in galleries led him to visit Sydney galleries on weekends and also became a familiar figure at Sydney art auctions and known as “Mr Bob” where he was an astute buyer of established artists at very reasonable prices. Artists like Rupert Bunny, James R.Jackson, Will Ashton, Margaret Preston, Fred Leist all became part of his collection.
I cannot understand a home without paintings.
Sredersas was well known to spend his spare time fossicking not only in galleries but in antique shops, all in order to enhance his art collection which he crammed into every nook and cranny of his tiny fibro cottage.
Bob never married nor had any relatives to leave his will to.
In 1976, Bob Sredersas approached the City of Wollongong with a proposition that helped establish the foundation of the Wollongong Art Gallery in 1978. His gift was to donate his entire collection of artworks to the City for the benefit of everyone’s cultural enhancement.
He lived to see his gift open in the Gallery spaces.
He passed away a few years later in 1982.
Image by Sylvie Liber
In 2018, the WAG remembered him with a marvellous reconstruction of his small lounge room and display of some of the collection. Curated by Anne-Louise Rentell, it showcased a very special and deeply generous soul.
The Gift: Remembering Bob Sredersas, was on exhibition to September 9, 2018.
The Grand opening was Sunday May 27, 12pm to 4pm accompanied by Lithuanian music, dancing, food and refreshments.
Over a period of 20 years, Bob spent his days off from the steelworks, travelling on the train from Cringila to Sydney