School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    Displays of union: Scottish art and British cultural identity in Australia, 1860-1945
    Fraser, Suzanne ( 2015)
    Scottish art was consistently collected and displayed in Australia from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century and continues to be included in the nation’s historic art museums to the present day. Public art institutions, such as the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, were established in the second half of the nineteenth century to serve as destinations of recreation and moral instruction in the British colonies. Consequently, works of Scottish art – together with displays of Scottish visual culture in the public and private spheres of society, more broadly – have contributed to the development of Australia’s cultural mores as they exist today. Yet the demarcation of Scottish art from ‘British’ art has only recently been undertaken in Australia, and remains to be fully explored. This thesis aims to offer an account of how and why Scottish art has been displayed in Australia. With a focus on the public collections of Victoria, this thesis will examine several important examples of Scottish art acquired up until the close of World War Two. The value of this undertaking is twofold: firstly, it ensures that the contributions of Scottish art and visual culture in this context are not sidelined in favour of English contributions and, secondly, it illustrates the interdependence of Scottish art and Britishness within the context of the Empire. This project thereby assists in the delineation of Scottish influences and characteristics from within the larger narrative of British cultural identity in Australia. The examples presented in this thesis encompass paintings, interior decoration and public statuary. By drawing on recent scholarship in the fields of art history, Scottish studies, empire studies and cultural geography, this project aims to reappraise these works of art and visual culture and, in turn, reveal the historic significance of Scottish art in Australia. By positioning this investigation as a new voice in contemporary dialogues concerning the role of the Scottish nation within the British state, this thesis will argue that Scottish art was a vital component in the establishment of British cultural identity in Australia across the period of at least a century. It will also be shown that Scottish art continues to have a prominent place in the cultural collections of this settler nation.