The Library has recently completed digitising 11,000 works on paper by significant Victorian artists, representing over 150 years of artistic output. With thousands of individual creators, every item needed to be researched and catalogued before digitization.

Our first step was to establish the date the work was produced and whether the artist was living or when they had died, then we could judge whether the work was out of copyright. In many cases we had no dates. And no contact details on file.

Collared plain wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus), H83.224/3 

For example, works such as Elizabeth Gould’s rare watercolour of the Collared plain wanderer, ca. 1840; is a preliminary watercolour for a lithograph published in John Gould’s Birds of Australia. This watercolour was purchased in 1936 but not researched until now. Only one other known drawing of the Collared plain wanderer is held; in the University of Kansas Library.

Elizabeth Gould’s watercolour of the White throated Gerygone (Gerygone albogularis) is very faintly signed ‘Mrs. Gould’, in the lower right and only now has been attributed to her. The digitizing of these watercolours coincided with the publication about Elizabeth titled the Birdman’s wife, which contributes to the rebuilding of her legacy. Elizabeth Gould worked as principal artist in the Gould’s publishing firm, creating the artworks for more than 600 works before she died at the age of 37.

White throated Gerygone (Gerygone albogularis), H83.224/2

For the sketches of John Martin Paterson, the copyright status was uncertain as we didn’t know when he died. Thus we weren’t able to digitize his WWI album Album of sketches of Devonport Military Hospital, England and Australian soldiers in France, 1914-1918 until our research found that he had been engaged to Margery Withers, a fellow student. This sketch is dedicated to Margery and reads:

To Margery. This kitten often comes into the orderly room so I sketched him one day / Jack.

To Margery. This kitten often comes into the orderly room so I sketched him one day / Jack. H29070/3

Our research also told us that John was killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux in August 1918. We hold the sketch he made two months before he died.

Australian soldier with gas mask on, Grantham June 6th 1918 / Jack. H29070/25

Margery Withers later married the artist Richard McCann, and it was Richard who donated John Martin Paterson’s album of sketches to the Library along with Margery’s work. We now have digitized works on paper by all three artists in the collection. This watercolour by Margery Withers was painted between 1913 and 1922.

A Warrandyte farm – near Frank Crozier’s, H36478/2

The drawing below by Richard McCann, shows a group of people in the Fitzroy Gardens ca. 1910-ca. 1915.

Fitzroy Gardens sketches, H29080/1

Stained glass window designs by Napier Waller, three metres long, were for a memorial window dedicated to John and Mary Grice, which was lost in the Ash Wednesday bush fires of 1983 at Mount Macedon.We have now preserved this record of the original design.

Design for double lancet memorial window dedicated to Sir John and Lady Mary Grice, Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, Mount Macedon, H93.150/94

This project has been such a pleasure to work on, to open every box and find something wonderful, bringing to light over 11,000 unique digitized items by its conclusion. Many artists and their descendants were deeply touched that the Library is interested in preserving their work, and that they will be remembered.


This article has 8 comments

  1. Christine Simons

    What a sad and charming story, love the drawings of the kittens.

  2. Any chance the works of my great great Uncle JAMES SCURRY have been digitized ?

    • Five works have been digitised by James Scurry (1826-1894), including a portrait of the artist’s brother Frederick Scurry 1853, H5033, a self portrait 1854 H5032 and a drawing of Coles Wharf 1853, H285. Search the catalogue under the name of the artist to find the works.
      There is also an aquatint by the artist John Scurry (1947- ), H2003.73 Figures on a roof 2001.

  3. What a wonderful collection, well done.

  4. Is there reference to Joan Torrance Kerr (my great aunt) who wrote and illustrated “‘Twixt Heather and Wattle Poems” 1902-11 and in 1889 married Harold Bertrand Kerr, son of Peter Kerr 1820-1912 Architect of Victoria Parliament House?

  5. Pingback: Inside History magazine | What’s New Online: Latest family history records, August 2017

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Terms & Conditions