I enjoy reading essays and articles and so I’ve decided to briefly review them here. My criteria for selection is that they are available online, either freely or through membership of one of our State Libraries (in my case, the State Library of Victoria). Membership of a State Library is free, and it often gives you access to online journals that you would not otherwise have. Not the most recent edition, admittedly, but free nonetheless.
Caroline Clemente ‘Artists in Society: a Melbourne circle 1850s- 1880s’ Art Bulletin of Victoria, 30, (2014) freely available online here.
The focus of this article is on three colonial artists whose works can be found in the NGV’s collection of colonial period art: Edward La Trobe Bateman (1815-97), Louisa Anne Meredith (1812-95) and Georgiana McCrae (1804-90). Although the works discussed in this article were all created during the period 1850-1880s, the networks and family/friendship connections between the artists reach back into 1840s Port Phillip. The Howitt family are the linch-pin here as the centre of cultured Port Phillip society, in their large house at No 1 Collins Street and at Barragunda, their retreat at Cape Schank. [See a photograph of their Collins Street residence here in 1868, showing the presence of large residences and gardens in what is now the centre of the city.]
At the same time, the links between these artists and their works and the cultural influences in the metropole are clear. Bateman‘s work featured at the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition held in Melbourne in 2015 and Louisa Anne Meredith’s books and illustrations attracted attention in London as part of the empire’s fascination with the flora and fauna of ‘the colonies’. Even Georgiana McCrae, whose professional life was largely stifled by her emigration to Port Phillip, was trained by some of the best masters in England and, thankfully, continued her work within her family circle even though it was deemed unseemly for her to work commercially.
This article takes each of the three artists in turn, highlighting the links between them. As the closing sentence of this essay notes:
This circle of friends and artists thus provides a unique insight and testifies to the breadth and vigour of the cultural life of early Melbourne.