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The 'work' of art: The National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship, 1887-1932

posted on 2016-12-02, 05:33 authored by Dwyer, Jillian
This thesis provides a history of the National Gallery of Victoria Travelling Scholarship from 1887 until 1932, when it was won successively by seven men and nine women. The recurrent theme is that of art as 'work' and of an art education as a vocational preparation. For men, the Scholarship promised an advanced education which would launch a career and confer professional and social status. Some remained expatriates and, as portraitists, established minor reputations abroad. Others returned to make their mark as artists, represented in institutional collections and included in classic accounts of Australian art. For women the outcomes were less predictable. Their success indicated that, as students, their abilities were acknowledged ; but educational opportunity did not produce the same vocational outcomes as it did for men. Nor was women's art as readily accepted at an institutional level, tending instead to remain invisible within private collections. The rediscovery of these women artists has consequently been an important component of this project. The works created for Scholarship competitions absorbed established aesthetic practices and so perpetuated accepted standards. Yet, by sending students abroad and exposing them to alternative influences, the Scholarship also functioned as a catalyst for change. It did not produce any 'great' artists, but it generated works which have enriched the Melbourne collection; and it historically documented the shift from fin de siècle styles to the emergence of early modernist art.


Principal supervisor

Leigh Astbury

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Visual Arts


Master of Arts

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts