Antipodean prints: Joseph Burke and the development of the University of Melbourne’s Print Collection

Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne

An illustrated talk by Dr Angelo Lo Conte, Ursula Hoff Fellow 2017.

This presentation investigates the early development of the University of Melbourne’s Print Collection. Beginning with the exceptional donation of over 3,500 Old Master prints bequeathed in 1959 by Dr Orde Poyn­ton, the collection was enriched in the early sixties thanks to the cooperative effort of legendary figures in the Australian art world such as Professor Joseph Burke, Dr Poynton and Dr Ursula Hoff.

Predicated on new archival discoveries, the presentation focuses on the period 1959-1964 outlining the background of the Collection’s most important acquisitions. The examination of unpublished private correspondence as well as departmental documents, uncovers the teaching function of the university collection and emphasises how its development was supported by an exceptional synergy between art historians and local philanthropists, namely the Lindsay family and the Society of Collectors.

Furthermore, the presentation unveils the acquisition strategy adopted by Joseph Burke and highlights how he intentionally used a different collecting approach from that of the National Gallery of Victoria, acquiring reproductive engravings that would complete the NGV’s Old Masters collection. In this regard, a seminar organized by Sir Anthony Blunt and Joseph Burke at the Courtauld Institute in December 1961 proved to be fundamental for the future organization of the University's Print Collection.

Image: Adriaen Van Ostade, The Painter, c.1647. Etching and drypoint, purchased 1961