Tag Archives: exhibitions

‘From Botantical Illustration to Research’ Baillieu Library- until 28 June 2015

I’ve been going into Melbourne Uni over the last couple of weeks to read a thesis in their Special Collections room and I noticed this small exhibition on the first floor of the library.  I could see what looked like some large sponges in the display cases, but when I looked more closely, they were old mushrooms. I’ve got to say, there’s not many things that look deader than a dead fungus.  And that’s why, if you want to see its real colours and structure, you either need a photograph or a botanical drawing.


Source: National Museum of Australia

The illustrations in this collection were drawn by Malcolm Howie. There was a photograph of him on the wall, and he seemed a very young man, sitting rather awkwardly on the grass.  He died at the age of 36, a victim of spinal muscular atrophy that rendered him unable to walk by the age of sixteen. Towards the end of his life, he could only make small movements of his wrist when painting.

His brother-in-law was Jim Willis, a botanist with the National Herbarium of Victoria with a strong interest in fungi.   Willis published a booklet Victorian Fungi in 1941 that featured Howie’s illustrations, which went through several editions right through until 1962. Howie had died by this time.

It is likely that Willis sourced the fungi for him to paint, and all of Howie’s paintings have annotated details on them in Willis’ handwriting.  Howie painted 200 life-sized species in total, and Ethel McLennan at the School of Botany at Melbourne University commissioned a series of 80 illustrations.  These illustrations form the heart of this display.

There are specimens beside some of the paintings- and rather dessicated and shrivelled specimens they are too- and other botantical illustrations of fungi from rare books in the library’s collection.

It’s a small, rather weird but nonetheless beautiful collection of illustrations, tinged with sadness at the death of the artist at such a young age.  The exhibition is on show until 28th June, with a series of talks about the illustrations running through May.  The website is here, complete with a slideshow of some of his illustrations.

From Botanical Illustration to Research, Noel Shaw Gallery, University of Melbourne 27 March -28 June 2015

Bohemian Melbourne exhibition


Well, as usual I am writing about an exhibition in its last days, and what is even more annoying is that I went to see it months ago, before Christmas and forgot to blog it!  If you want to see it, you’ll need to put your skates on.

Some time ago I reviewed Tony Moore’s book Dancing With Empty Pockets and I see that he has been a subject adviser for this exhibition at the State Library of Victoria.   As a proud Melburnian, this is  a satisfyingly home-based exhibition, with plenty of familiar names and places.  It starts with Marcus Clarke, complete with his cabbage tree hat which I was surprised to see was a much more stylish construction than I imagined. (I can’t believe that I’ve lived this long without ever seeing a cabbage tree hat- or perhaps I just didn’t realize what it was I was looking at.)  It’s all very masculine in the first section, with bohemian gentlemen’s clubs and bonhomie. Women  are thin on the ground until the 1930s onwards, when they emerge in the artistic enclaves and on the stage.  Lovely Mirka Mora gets a look-in, there’s the definitely weird Percy Grainger (whose own museum is well worth a look if it’s open when you’re going along Royal Parade) and look- there’s Red Symons (and what does it say about Bohemia that an ex-Bohemian ends up the morning host on ABC local radio?)

All good fun, although I must admit that I found the layout confusing and somehow missed the chronological thread of it all which, in this case, was important.

I see that the State Library have a self-guided walking tour of Bohemian Melbourne too.  Might be a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll sometime.