Originally known as the Darnell Collection, The University of Queensland Art Collection began in the 1940s as the result of a generous financial bequest by John Darnell. While funds were originally applied to endow a special library collection, the University redirected the remainder of these funds towards establishing a Fine Art Library.

Dr JV Duhig, Professor RP Cummings and Professor HC Richards, assisted by a group of artists and advisors, within a few years assembled a collection of some 400 works. At the time, The University of Queensland did not have an art museum, and the collection was hung in the main geology lab at the University's original home in George Street.

Miss Just and Mr Simpson hanging art works at Darnell Gallery 1967