Carrick Hill's more cohesive collection of British paintings of the first half of the twentieth century and the highly visible (and, for Australia, rare) collection of French works of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are better known, both already having been exhibited as collections, in 1989 (the French Collection), and 1991 (the British Collection).

Sir Edward and Lady [Ursula] Hayward, who together established Carrick Hill and built up its collections over three decades from the late 1930s, purchased historical Australian works (such as those by Emanuel Phillips Fox, Arthur Streeton, and George Lambert) as well as contemporary work.

The Haywards also consciously supported local artists. Jeffrey Smart has recounted to me that he and Jacqueline Hick, as well as other young South Australian artists, felt privileged to be entertained at Carrick Hill and to see paintings by artists whose work could not be seen anywhere in Australia at the time, such as French artists Paul Gauguin, Auguste Renoir, Edouard Vuillard and Eugene Boudin. They enjoyed studying good examples by significant British artists whose work could be seen elsewhere (including at the Art Gallery of South Australia) - such as Stanley Spencer, Walter Sickert, Augustus John, Gwen John and Paul Nash. Local artists could also view works by interstate artists who were regarded in the 1940s as the fathers of modern Australian art Russell Drysdale and William Dobell. In fact, the Haywards owned Australia's most controversial contemporary painting of the 1940s, William Dobell's portrait of Joshua Smith, winner of the Archibald Prize in 1943. The controversy generated by the court case over its status as a caricature or a portrait was exciting and stimulating for the local younger artists. The painting was severely damaged in a fire in 1958, and is no longer in the collection.