Today the University of Melbourne announced a new fully endowed Chair in Art History at the University of Melbourne, to be named in honour of the Australia artist Hugh Ramsay. This, alongside the news that the university has also begun the process to recruit a new Herald Chair of Fine Arts, is great news for the Art History program at Melbourne, as well as for Art History in Australia more broadly.
From the Head of the School of Culture and Communication, Professor Rachel Fensham:
The Australian artist Hugh Ramsay (1877-1906) has been memorialized in a major gift to the University’s Art History Program. Widely acknowledged as one of the most brilliant students ever trained in Victoria – and as an artist whose light shone very brightly at the beginning of the twentieth century – Ramsay was educated in Melbourne, but first made his mark in Europe, where he quickly achieved great acclaim. In spite of failing health, he produced some remarkable works including ‘The Sisters’ (now in the Art Gallery of NSW), the ‘Lady with a Fan’ and his own portrait (now in the National Gallery of Victoria). His untimely death in 1906 was noted by Arthur Streeton as a loss the ‘greatest Australian Art has suffered’. Several retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held and a Hugh Ramsay prize was founded at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1918. In honour of this legacy and in respect of the great traditions of education in Art History at the University of Melbourne, Hugh Ramsay’s great niece, Faculty of Arts alumna Patricia Fullerton has recently pledged a multi-million dollar gift to secure an endowed chair in Ramsay’s name. The Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History will honour and extend the legacy of his exceptional talent, but just as important for Ms Fullerton – herself an art historian – is the fact that the new Chair will underpin the future development and understanding of Australian Art. The author of Hugh Ramsay: His Life and Work (1988), Ms Fullerton has stated that she hopes that the Chair will inspire a new generation of scholars to recognize both the wonderful legacy and vibrant future of Australian Art. As you are aware the fulfilment of this gift comes at a significant time for the Art History Program, in which after the review earlier this year, we are in the process of recruiting for another prestigious chair, the Herald Chair of Fine Art. The appointment of two new professors in the program, already distinguished by its foundational role in education for academic Art History in Australia and its major contribution to the cultural life of the nation and beyond, is extremely exciting. Patricia’s wonderful gift will ensure we can continue to educate students, scholars and the public about the significance of Australian Art long into the future.
– Katrina Grant