The Valerie and John Ryan Bequest

The Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation is honoured to announce it is the beneficiary of an extraordinary bequest from the late Valerie Ryan with an estimated value of $10 million.

Valerie Ryan, who sadly passed away last November aged 94, has bequeathed the residue of her Estate equally to the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation and the Hunter Medical Research Institute in one of the Hunter’s largest ever charitable donations.

She and her late husband John Ryan, who died in 2009, were longtime residents of The Hill and neighbours and friends of immediate past Foundation Chair, Judy Hart.

Her relationship with Newcastle Art Gallery deepened later in her life, becoming a Foundation member in 2009 and quickly progressing to the highest supporter level of Governor in 2014.

Valerie (Val) supported many gallery initiatives beginning with the commissioning of the Newcastle Chest in 2010, a major work in an important exhibition Treasures of Newcastle from the Macquarie Era, held in Newcastle Art Gallery in March 2013.

She gave generously towards the commissioning of the Stuart and Sons piano and to the purchase of a number of important works by Joseph Lycett, William Dobell, Brett Whiteley and Tony Tuckson.

Val enjoyed attending Gallery, Foundation and Society piano recitals and contributed to improved gallery lighting and a new sound system when her own hearing began to deteriorate. She loved attending the Society’s Coffee with Art mornings.

Val also took great pleasure in spending time with former Gallery Director, Ron Ramsey, broadening her knowledge and love of art. Ron described Val as a proud Novocastrian who loved this City, its people and its institutions.

Whilst she was unable to visit the gallery in recent years she managed to stay connected through friends, Gallery newsletters and visits with Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton.

Lauretta Morton said Newcastle Art Gallery was humbled by the significant bequest of Valerie and John Ryan.

“It is through their incredible and continued generosity that important works of art for the city’s collection have been made possible. We are thrilled that through this extraordinary gift to Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation the legacy of Valerie and John Ryan will continue to benefit their beloved Gallery and Newcastle’s community for future generations,” she said.

The Foundation and Newcastle Art Gallery looks forward to hosting a special event attended by Valerie and John’s family later this year.


Valerie Ryan is survived by nieces Megan McManus who lives in Northern New South Wales and Belinda McManus who resides in New Zealand. Extended family on John’s side of the family reside here in Newcastle.

Megan McManus described Valerie and John Ryan as a devoted couple who were great fun, valued hard work and sharing good times with friends.

“Valerie loved many things – her family, her friends and her travels, she had a great love of animals particularly cats, and appreciated a good garden. She was passionate about art and culture, knowledge and Newcastle.

“She chose the Art Gallery and HMRI for this wonderful gift because she believed they would do great things for the City she loved. The outcome of these bequests will be a wonderful legacy to this amazing couple,” said Megan.

This extraordinary philanthropic gift puts the Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation in a strong position to work constructively with all levels of government to progress the gallery expansion, a project which Valerie supported.

Both HMRI and the NAGF are honoured to receive these gifts and hope that Valerie and John Ryan’s generosity provides the Hunter community and beyond with hope and inspiration in otherwise difficult and uncertain times.

Vale Valerie Ryan.