fig. 6
Gerard Portielje

Alfred Felton has long been recognised as the benefactor who transformed the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. With his bequest the Gallery suddenly gained access to acquisition funds greater than those of the National and Tate galleries in London combined and, between 1904 and 2004, more than 15,000 items were purchased with an estimated value today of approximately one and a half billion dollars. Compared to the fame of his bequest, Felton’s own collection of art is little known and has received a decidedly mixed reception during the past one hundred years. At the time of Felton’s death in 1904, the ‘general excellence’ 1 Australasian, ‘The Felton pictures’, 2 April 1904, n.p., clippings book, ANZ Executors and Trustee Co. Ltd. of his taste was widely acknowledged in the Melbourne press, with the Argus declaring it to be ‘a very notable and valuable collection of paintings.’2 Argus, ‘The Felton Pictures’, 21 April 1904, n.p., clippings book, ANZ Trustees. But fifty years later, this same collection was roundly castigated by Daryl Lindsay, a past director of the Gallery and chronicler of the bequest. Lindsay, of the generation that despised Victorian art, dismissed Felton’s taste as ‘no better or worse than that of his contemporaries’, and claimed, ‘the only items of aesthetic value were the little masterpiece Low tide at Boulogne by Richard Parkes Bonington, and the two early works by Louis Buvelot [fig. 1]. How came these three fine paintings amongst such a sorry company?’3 D. Lindsay (ed.), The Felton Bequest: An Historical Record, Melbourne, 1963, pp. 5–6. Lindsay did concede – to be ‘only fair’ – that:

Alfred Felton never laid claim to any specialised knowledge of the arts. He was first and last an amateur, delighting in the odd, the bizarre, and too often in the merely commonplace, with an occasional choice of real quality … [in] a purely personal excursion by a man of affairs into a fascinating but alien field.4 ibid., p. 6.

The trustee and historian of the NGV, Leonard Cox, also of Lindsay’s generation, followed him in describing Felton’s taste as ‘ordinary’.5 L. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861–1968, Melbourne, 1975, p. 61. By the 1980s, however, NGV curator Dr Ursula Hoff was more sympathetic, noting that Felton shared with other collectors of his generation in Victoria ‘an understandably nostalgic liking for English scenery’, but also observing that he bought an unusually large number of Australian works for his time, mainly paintings by the older generation of nineteenth-century artists.6 U. Hoff, The Felton Bequest, Melbourne, 1983, p. 1. In 1976 Gerard Vaughan (the present NGV director), while agreeing that Felton’s ‘taste was conventional and unremarkable’, commented that his collection fitted neatly into the transition in colonial collecting from purely English interests to broader tastes. ‘His preference was for rustic landscape, seascape and “touristic” views’; but ‘the modern foreign pictures’ he acquired marked ‘a new departure’.7 G. Vaughan, in Art Collectors in Colonial Victoria 1854–1892: An Analysis of Taste and Patronage, BA Honours, University of Melbourne 1976, pp. 19,21–3. These and preceding passages are quoted in J. Poynter, Mr Felton’s Bequests, Melbourne, 2003, on which Poynter’s contribution to this article is based.

This article seeks to expand upon these recent reassessments of Felton’s taste by examining Felton’s activities as a collector and his selection of works of art in greater detail. It will be argued that Felton’s collection was in many ways representative of later Victorian taste, particularly in the colonies, and that the works acquired for the NGV in his lifetime played a role in shaping his artistic preferences.

Felton the collector

‘Wealth!! Get it spent.’ So wrote Felton in one of the last entries in his diary. He also set down his priorities for spending his fortune in one of his little notebooks: ‘Expenditures on the sick and poor; on servants and employees; on art works, traveling and also on desirable things:8 Russell Grimwade papers, University of Melbourne archive. By the time of his death, Felton was a compulsive collector, but why and when he began collecting works of art is not known. Since it was an interest not easily indulged in a boarding house, it seems unlikely that he became a heavy purchaser of pictures and other art objects in his first years in the colony. There was, in any case, little opportunity to do so. Some wealthy settlers brought their pictures with them, but a market in Melbourne for other than local art was limited before the 1870s, though the great Victorian boom in prints, which made so many British artists rich, spilled over into the colony in the 1850s.9 A. Inglis, ‘Art at second hand: Prints after European pictures in Victoria before 1870’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 7,1988, pp. 51–63.

By the 1880s, however, Felton would have had many opportunities to see and purchase works of art in Melbourne. The International Exhibition of 1888 and the Royal Anglo–Australian Exhibition of 1889 brought an immense array of paintings, sculpture and art objects before the public. Melbourne’s boom years coincided with an upsurge in the commercial art world in London, when the burgeoning art market moved away from traditional venues such as the Royal Academy to private undertakings and dealers’ galleries, several of which, including the Grosvenor Gallery, Henry Wallis of the French Gallery and Tooth & Sons, sent out exhibitions or established representatives in the colonies.10 G. Waterfield (ed.), Palaces of Art, Art Galleries in Britain 1790–1990 (exh. cat.), Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 1991, pp. 159–70; C. Denney, ‘The Grosvenor Gallery as palace of art, an exhibition model’, in The Grosvenor Gallery, A Palace of Art in Victorian England, eds S. Casteras & C. Denney, New Haven and London, 1996, pp. 11–17. At the same time an increasing awareness in Britain of contemporary continental artists was fostered by dealers such as Agnew and Gambart.11 D. S. Macleod, Art and the Victorian Middle Class, Money and the Making of Cultural Identity, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 234–8. The greater availability of continental works was reflected in Australia through the international exhibitions and also through agents such as H. Koekkoek & Sons, who, from 1885, regularly brought important contemporary European paintings to Melbourne and Sydney from their base in London. Fletcher of Collins Street was another prominent dealer with European ties, while the auction house of Gemmell, Tuckett & Co. regularly had sales of paintings, watercolours and other art objects.12 Vaughan, pp. 48–78; C. Jordan, ‘Fletcher’s of Collins Street: A Melbourne art dealer of the 1880s’ (forthcoming, La Trobe Journal, 2005). Fletcher was the local representative of Tooth & Sons. The authors would like to thank Caroline Jordan for allowing them access to her research.

Felton was certainly a collector by 1884, when he remarked to his business partner F. S. Grimwade that a friend had ‘looked in to see one or two of my pictures’. When William John Greig fled the colony and his debts, and his ‘House, Lands, Pictures, Books, Plate, Equipages and furniture’ were ‘brought to the hammer in seven days’ sales’, Felton ‘expended a few hundreds on pictures, books, [wines?] and curios’.13 Alfred Felton, letter to F. S. Grimwade, 2 June 1884, letterbook, records of Felton Bequests, La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria. No doubt he bought them for Wattle House, which he was renovating at the time; when he moved in the following year, the old St Kilda mansion had a new library and was said to be well stocked with pictures. Felton, restless in these years, did not live there long, going overseas at the end of 1886 and selling the house in 1888.

Felton purchased furniture and objets d’art as well as pictures. He liked to surround himself with beautiful things, even in his office,14 See R. Grimwade, Flinders lane. Melbourne, 1947, p.7, for a description of the small ivory tortoise-shaped bell (used to summon his secretary) that was bought in Brindisi to replace a more efficient metal one. and his large collection of ‘art treasures’ was very much in keeping with the taste of the day. Thus the influence of the Aesthetic Movement’s ‘craze’ for things Japanese was evident in Felton’s rooms in his display of Japanese bronze vases, cloisonné ware and carved ivories, rubbing shoulders with his Italian marble statuary and French bronze figurines.15 Felton’s collection of sculpture (mostly French bronzes, with some marble antique copies) exemplified his taste for naturalism and romance. His statuettes by Carrier-Belleuse, the Siren and Dubois’s Dancing girl and decorative timepieces by Gregoire (such as the black marble clock surmounted by a bronze Viking and maid) were technically brilliant and visually evocative. Like the Japanese objets d’art, no Victorian interior was complete without figurines in bronze, Parian ware or terracotta. Felton may have acquired these works because of the high quality of the French sculpture at the 1888 Melbourne International Exhibition that received a first-class medal. For Felton’s collection of six marble statues and over thirty bronze statues and decorative pieces, see Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., The Felton Collection. Art Treasures. Marble statuary, bronzes, carved ivories, sterling silver, art furniture, china and curios, 29 April 1904, pp. 4–5. The sheer number of ivory netsuke that he acquired (over seventy carved ivory objects are listed in the 1904 sale catalogue)16 Gemmell, Tuckett & Co. described Felton’s carved ivories as ‘undoubtedly the finest collection ever submitted to public competition in Melbourne’, Art Treasures, p. 6. would suggest that his taste for these carvings extended beyond mere fashion to a dedicated connoisseurship. Felton may have acquired these pieces while abroad,17 See Liberty & Co., Eastern Antiquities (cat.), c.1880, in T. Sako and T. Watanabe, Japan and Britain, An Aesthetic Dialogue 1850–1930, London, 1991, p. 131, for a description of Japanese decorative arts ‘including pottery, metalwork, lacquer work and “netsuke” (ivory carving) with prices ranging from seven shillings and six pence … to 50 guineas’. but he was also able to indulge his passion locally, as Grimwade recalls Felton’s secretary, Dickson Gregory, being sent around to Kozminsky’s to see if any new ivories had arrived for inspection.18 Grimwade, 1947, p. 66.

Even as a collector, Felton, a true merchant, enjoyed both buying and selling art. In 1885 his firm accepted a consignment of pictures from a London dealer for sale in Melbourne; Grimwade wrote in February 1886, in Felton’s absence, that they had proved difficult to sell: so many pictures were sent to the colony for sale that prices were low.19 F. S. Grimwade, letter to J. Bedloe Goddard, 24 February 1886, partners’ letterbook, Drug Houses of Australia Collection, University of Melbourne archive. Later he reported a possible buyer for six of the pictures. In July 1888 Grimwade was again left with some pictures – probably culled by Felton from Wattle House – to be ‘sent to [the dealer] Fletcher on Mr Felton’s account’ to sell. Soon after his return from Europe in 1890, Felton shipped five cases of ‘paintings etc.’ by paddle steamer to his Riverina pastoral property, Murray Downs, which he had bought (in partnership with Charles Campbell) in 1884; part of the very large investment by Melbourne merchants in pastoral estates in these years.20 Letter from Campbell to Felton, 30 March 1890, quoted in Mrs Croft, History of Murray Downs Station (privately printed, Swan Hill, c.1965), p. 23. Other consignments followed, and it is likely that pictures chosen by Felton remained there until 1995.

Felton’s only known patronage of a living artist arose from his friendship with Judge Bunny and his family. According to family tradition, it was Felton who persuaded Brice Bunny to allow his talented son, Rupert, to enrol in the National Gallery School late in 1881, and three years later to study at an art school in London.21 D. Thomas, Rupert Bunny 1864–1947, Melbourne, 1970, pp. 12,16. Felton commissioned a painting by him in 1889, Saint Cecilia, and greatly treasured the symbolist-inspired work, though it little resembled other works in this collection. Saint Cecilia appeared in a Victorian Artists’ Society exhibition in 1893, ‘lent by A. Felton Esq’.22 Age, 13 November 1889. See also B. Kane, Sanctity and mystery: The Symbolist Art of Rupert Bunny (exh. cat.), Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 2001, p. 56. The previous year Felton had continued his support of Bunny by presenting another symbolist canvas, Sea idylls, 1890, to the NGV.23 This work had been exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1890 (see Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, Melbourne, 1908, p. 111). Felton also gave two works to the newly established Geelong Art Gallery in 1900: von Guérard’s The Weatherboard Falls and Charles Rolando’s Watt’s River (see S. Shears, A Guide to the Geelong Art Gallery and its collections, 1989, p.5). A third work by the artist, Idle moments, n.d., was included in the 1904 sale of Felton’s collection.

By 1891 Felton had moved into the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda. His lodgings there were described several times by Russell Grimwade:

Bookshelves all round, crammed in places with orderly series of volumes; crammed elsewhere with disorderly heaps of books, papers and serials. Above, pictures, clocks, ornaments and rubbish; above that, on the walls, the earlier pictures, properly hung. In front, the later pictures, leaning against the books, or a pedestal carrying a marble statue. Perhaps an ormolu timepiece, with its glass dome, and the auction room number still on it.24 The Home, 1 January 1926, reprinted in Historical Record of the Felton Bequest, supplement no. 1, pp. 99–103.

 Grimwade’s description is confirmed by an album of photographs by Nicholas Caire which Felton apparently commissioned to document his collection at this time.25 This album lacks its front cover, but bears Caire’s label; an entry in Felton’s ledger, showing a payment of £20 to Caire recorded on 15 May 1902 probably refers to it. Several show the various walls of Felton’s apartment – or rather glimpses of them – between and above his pictures, bronze figures, ivories, clocks and books (figs 2–5).26 The overflowing condition of Felton’s apartment can be compared to the cluttered rooms of another bachelor collector, David Scott Mitchell, founder of the Mitchell Library, Sydney (see R. Tyrrell, David Scott Mitchell, Sydney, 1936, pp. 10–11). (The authors thank Terence Lane, Senior Curator of 19th Century Australian Art, NGV, for drawing this example to their attention.) Most of the plates are also devoted to individual pictures, including those his secretary recalled as Felton’s favourites: ‘A large painting attributed to Peter Paul Rubens and another large oil painting Morning mists by Peter Graham which he adored’ (figs 3 & 4). Also prominent in the album are Richard Beavis’s The charcoal burners, 1874 (fig. 4), Edwin Hayes’s Off the Mumbles Lighthouse, Swansea, n.d., and a copy of Bartolemé Murillo’s Flight into Egypt, n.d., all displayed on free-standing easels.

As the photographic album suggests, Felton liked to show off his collection, writing to a Sydney friend in 1895 that the new pictures would, ‘I think’, please him, when he came over. ‘I have had an occupation which filled up my leisure time for some weeks, viz., fitting up a couple of large rooms at the Esplanade, but now Othello’s occupation is gone! for the rooms are both full and complete’.27 Alfred Felton, letter to Dr Phillips, 18 December 1895, ‘AF no. 1 general’, letterbook, records of Felton Bequests, La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Full they were, but never complete: a special chattels account in Felton’s private ledger recorded that in the 1890s he spent some £3396 on ‘art works’ (including jewellery and many pictures, ivories and other objets d’art), a surprising amount of furniture and a great many books. He had specialist advisers: W. R. Stevens, ‘his picture buyer’ and ‘Keith, his book buyer’, who were both paid commissions.28 Grimwade, 1947, p. 66.

In 1903, in his seventy-third year, Felton’s health had begun to fail, but he remained an active collector all the year, buying pictures from Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., ivories from Kozminsky’s, books from Beauchamp’s, photographs from Caire, and albums to put them in from Sands & McDougall. He had electric light installed in his picture gallery, and decided to redecorate the Rooms – gallery and dining room – selecting ‘a rich crimson paper’ which he thought suitable for showing off the gilt frames of his pictures. The work was completed, but by then ‘Mr Felton was too ill to be troubled about pictures’, Dickson Gregory reported; it is unlikely that Felton ever saw there the twenty-seven pictures Stevens bought for him at the sale of William Lynch’s collection in December 1903.29 Dickson Gregory, letter to Russell Grimwade, 30 April 1934, and his note to the ANZ Trustees, 1905. Russell Grimwade papers, University of Melbourne archive.

On 4 January 1904 Felton, dying in his simply furnished bedroom upstairs in the Esplanade, dictated and shakily signed his last letter, passing on to Mrs Donald Mackinnon ‘a treasure’, her brother Rupert Bunny’s Saint Cecilia, which he had promised to send her ‘as soon as I considered I should have to part with it’.30 Russell Grimwade papers. On 8 January 1904 Felton died.

The collection

Most of Felton’s collection was sold over several days in April and May 1904. The auctioneers, Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., producing lavish sale catalogues, one devoted to the picture collection, another to the ‘art treasures’ and a third (which has not survived) to books and photographs.31 Gemmell, Tuckett, The Felton Collection. Catalogue of the Magnificent Oil Paintings and Watercolours, 27 and 28 April 1904. Most of Felton’s pictures went under the hammer at the auction, the proceeds advertised as going in equal parts ‘to the Hospitals and the National Gallery’. His sculpture and decorative arts were auctioned separately the next day (Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., Art Treasures, 1904). The sale of the pictures was, however, widely reported (the proprietors of the Australasian and the Leader published pages of ‘photographic reproductions’ on 2 April and the Australasian again on April 16 (fig. 8). The surviving publications provide insights into Felton’s activities as a collector, detailing the large array of oil paintings, watercolours, sculpture and decorative arts that he accumulated during his lifetime.

An examination of the picture collection, in particular Felton’s choice of artist and subject matter, reveals some of the underlying motivations that guided his purchases. British landscape painting predominated, with over fifty oil paintings and thirty-four watercolours devoted to this genre.32 The entire collection (those selected by the Gallery and those in the sale) comprised 113 oils and seventy-eight watercolours. The paintings at Murray Downs, which belonged to the partnership Campbell and Felton, were not included in the sale. Thanks to absentee ownership, the interior furnishings at Murray Downs remained little changed between Felton’s death and 1995. It is likely that some or all of the sixteen paintings listed in the 1995 inventory were those sent up by Felton in 1889; certainly the nine pictures sold by Sotheby’s in August 1996 conformed to his taste. A large number were by contemporary landscape artists, many of them leading Royal Academicians such as Benjamin W. Leader (1831–1923), Vicat Cole (1833–1893), Peter Graham (1836–1921) and H. W. B. Davis (1833–1914). These artists were much admired in the later Victorian period, indeed, it has been claimed that Leader’s fame was such that by the end of the century [his village painting], February fill Dyke, 1881, had achieved the kind of popular immortality that in British landscape art had previously only been granted to Constable’.33 R. Treble, Great Victorian Pictures: Their Paths to Fame (exh. cat.), Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1978, p. 49. Felton appears to have sought, where possible, ‘classic’ examples of these artists’ work. For instance, he acquired a smaller version of Peter Graham’s famous Scottish landscape, A spate in the highlands, 1866,34 Felton’s version of this picture was entitled A highland spate, 1874, and had been acquired from the Austin Collection. For the popularity of Graham’s A spate in the highlands, see R. Treble, 1978, pp. 41–2. while his Vicat Cole harvest picture, A Surrey cornfield, 1870 (fig. 3), was reminiscent of that artist’s famous work, Ripening sunbeams, 1879, which had been exhibited to great acclaim at Melbourne’s Centennial International Exhibition of 1888.35 S. Palmer, ‘The Latest in Artistic Endeavours’, in Victorian Icon, The Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne, by D. Dunstan, Melbourne, 1996, p.211. The contemporary press described many of Felton’s works as ‘fine and characteristic examples of their authors’ (‘The Felton pictures’, Argus, 21 April 1904, ANZ Trustees).

Felton’s choice of landscape artists also suggests that he had his own educated awareness of the historical development of the British school.36 The sale catalogue of Felton’s library has not survived, but the books that the National Gallery of Victoria acquired after his death indicate an impressive knowledge of art and British art history in particular: Ruskin’s Modern Painters, Art of England, Lectures and Seven Lamps of Architecture; Waagen’s Art Treasures of Britain and Galleries of Great Britain; Turner’s Liber Studiorum, Rivers of France and Seine et Loire; Pyne’s English Lake Scenery, Gallery of Contemporary Art and Portrait Gallery; Jameson’s Italian Painters and Sacred and Legendary Art; Viardot’s History of Painters; Anderson’s Pictorial Arts of Japan; books on the Wallace Collection, the Dresden Gallery and serial volumes of The Studio, Fine Arts Quarterly Review, Art Journal, and Magazine of Art (see Anon., ‘The Felton Bequest’, Argus, 4 March 1904). Felton also owned a copy of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, with William Blake’s hand-coloured engravings, from the Sir William à Beckett collection (see I. Zdanowicz, ‘The Melbourne Blakes – Their acquisition and critical fortunes in Australia’, in William Blake in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, eds M. Butlin & T. Gott, 1989, p. 18). Alongside contemporary painters, he actively acquired characteristic examples of earlier British ‘masters’ including such major figures as Richard Wilson (1714–1782), John Constable (1776–1837), John Linnell (1792–1882), Richard Parkes Bonington (1802­–1828) and David Cox (1783–1859). The Norwich School of painters was represented as well – a taste that possibly reflected Felton’s own roots in England’s eastern counties – with one work by John (‘Old’) Crome (1768–1821) and another three by his follower, James Stark (1794–1859).

Felton’s liking for early nineteenth-century landscape painting should not be dismissed as quaintly old-fashioned, but seen to be in keeping with the upsurge of interest in the history of the British school that occurred during the later Victorian period. Richard and Samuel Redgrave’s A Century of British Painters, first published in 1866, had devoted considerable coverage to the ‘golden age’ of landscape painting, singling out J. M. W. Turner, Constable, Bonington and Old Crome for particular attention.37 See R. & S. Redgrave, A Century of British Painters, Oxford, 1981. The increased estimation in which this era was held was also revealed by a series of major sales, such as Joseph Gillot’s collection in 1872 and William Quitter’s in 1875, at which unexpectedly high prices were achieved for works by the early nineteenth-century masters.38 S. Wilcox & C. Newell, Victorian Landscape Watercolours (exh. cat.), Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1992, p. 25. This scholarly and commercial attention continued during the 1880s and 1890s, and helped to reaffirm the widespread belief that the artists of Turner’s and Constable’s generation were equal if not superior to the modern school.39 See G. Reitlinger, The Economics of Taste, vol. 1, London, 1961, pp. 102–7.

The historical sweep of Felton’s landscape collection was not limited to the early and late decades of the nineteenth century. Important artists of the mid-Victorian period also featured, such as Thomas Creswick RA (1811–1869), Clarkson Stanfield RA (1793–1867), Frederick Richard Lee RA (1799–1879), J. B. Pyne (1800–1870), William Leighton Leitch (1804–1883) and David Roberts RA (1796–1864). But all these artists could be said to uphold the traditions of the earlier generation of landscape artists, with Stanfield, Pyne, Leitch and Roberts combining picturesque and romantic qualities inspired by Turner, while Lee’s and Creswick’s more straightforward depictions of British rural scenery invite comparison with Constable.40 See L. Herrmann, Nineteenth Century British Painting, London, 2000, pp. 86–8, 160–2. Interestingly, Felton may have acquired two copies after Turner – which were displayed in the dining room at his Murray Downs property. What is missing from Felton’s collection is the mid-century ideal of objective representation, the concept of ‘truth to nature’ epitomised by the Pre-Raphaelites and their followers. Felton bypasses this movement altogether, as do other Melbourne collectors (and also the NGV, one of Bernard Hall’s chief complaints when he became director). But Felton, like the Gallery, willingly took up those later Victorian landscape painters, such as Leader and Graham, who rejected the detachment with which the Pre-Raphaelites had viewed landscape and instead tried to instil a new dimension of poetic mood or emotional engagement.41 See M. Warner, The Victorians, British Painting 1837–1901 (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1996. pp. 35–6, 178–9; C. Wood, Victorian Painting, London, 1999. pp. 290–7.

A similar personal taste for picturesque or sentimental imagery (for ‘effect’ rather than ‘detail’)42 The Art Journal in 1864 claimed ‘Landscape Art, speaking generally, may be divided between schools of detail and effect’ (Wilcox & Newell, 1992, p.49). can be detected in Felton’s small but fine group of genre paintings (which number fewer than thirty works in the collection). The selection of well-known narrative painters again ranges from the early to later Victorian periods, but the pictures by Augustus Egg RA (1816–1863), represented in the collection by A puritan lady, n.d., J. Callcott Horsley RA (1817–1903), George Dunlop Leslie RA (1835–1921), P. H. Calderon RA (1833–1898), represented by The English Embassy in Paris, St Bartholomew’s Eve, 1867 (fig. 2), Charles Cattermole RI (1832–1900) represented by A scene from Boccaccio’s Decameron, n.d., a ‘famous classic romance’ (fig. 5) and George Elgar Hicks (1824–1914) represented by Meditation, 1880, a ‘lovely melancholy’ study of a young girl (fig. 8); all reflect, in their subject matter and treatment, the collector’s preference for images that gratify the eye and elicit a pleasurable emotional response. It is significant that in one of his little notebooks Felton recorded excerpts from the writings of James Northcote, the eighteenth-century artist. ‘Painters’, Northcote wrote and Felton copied, ‘should never neglect that quality of beauty in their pictures: beauty is a necessity in a picture, and all the best painters have sought after it without ceasing’.43 Felton notebook, University of Melbourne archive.

Felton’s collection of genre paintings, while small in number, also encompassed works by contemporary European artists such as the Italians G. Pagliei (1852–1896) who is represented in the collection by An Egyptian, n.d., and G. Simoni (1846–1926) The marble mosque, 1879; the Belgian, Gerard Portielje (1856–1929) The old bachelor, 1886 (fig. 6), and the German, E. Merk (1816–1888) A drinking song, n.d. As Vaughan has observed, ‘pictures by these [continental] artists were brought to Melbourne from the mid 1880s (especially by Koekkoek of Pall Mall) and their inclusion in the collection suggests a positive response to the new market’.44 Vaughan, p. 22. But while these works could be argued to represent ‘a growing modernity and cosmopolitanism in Felton’s acquisitions’, the choice of subject matter differed little from the rest of the collection. The same can be said for the modest group of continental views and seascapes bought by Felton; the Venetian scenes by Miss A Brandeis, J. A. Campriani and R. Prosdocimi hung side by side with comparable British examples of that popular theme; while the sea-pieces by members of the Koekkoek family formed part of a larger group of marine works by Edwin Hayes, W. C. Knell, William Melby (fig. 8) and T. B. Hardy.45 Seascapes and Venetian views – favourite Victorian subjects – formed thematic subcategories within Felton’s collection, with twenty marine works and ten Venetian pictures in total. See Wood, 1999, pp. 340–51, 363.

The extent to which Felton’s collection of paintings can be regarded as typical of contemporary British taste can be judged by a comparison with the collection of seventy-seven paintings belonging to the Royal Holloway College that its founder, Thomas Holloway, purchased for ‘the edification of the students and the public’ between 1881 and 1883.46 J. Chapel, Victorian Taste, the Complete Catalogue Of Paintings at the Royal Holloway College, London, 1982, p. 9. Like Felton, Holloway had made his fortune in the patent medicine business and his decision to acquire a collection ‘for the splendid gallery … attached to the benevolent institution founded by him’47 Times, London, May 1882, quoted in Chapel, 1982, p. 13. caused considerable excitement and debate in the London press during the early 1880s (just at the time Felton was himself visiting that capital). Over half of Holloway’s collection was devoted to landscapes, seascapes and animal paintings, and although described as a ‘gallery of modern pictures’,48 Holloway obituary, Art Journal, 1883, quoted in Chapel, 1982, p.14. his purchases ranged across the entire British school; commencing in the late eighteenth century with landscapes by Thomas Gainsborough and George Morland, then moving through the early nineteenth century with Constable and Turner (among others), the mid century (including artists such as Clarkson Stanfield, James B. Pyne, David Roberts and James Webb), and finishing with Peter Graham, Benjamin W. Leader and John MacWhirter. Of course, Holloway was acquiring major museum pieces, often paying staggeringly high prices for famous works, while Felton’s collection was domestic in both scale and intent. Nevertheless, the parallels between Felton’s and Holloway’s preferred landscape artists and subjects are striking.

When it comes to figurative painting, however, a different picture emerges. Both men acquired historical and domestic genre scenes by Horsley and others, and were also prepared to buy the occasional European work. But unlike Felton, Holloway’s smaller paintings were complemented by more grandiose compositions by late-Victorian artists like Edwin Long whose The Babylonian marriage market, 1875, was one of the highlights of the collection. Moreover, the Pre-Raphaelite and social realist pictures, so markedly absent from Felton’s rooms, were present in force, with iconic images such as John Millais’s Princes in the tower, 1878, William Frith’s The railway station, 1862, Frank Holl’s Newgate: Committed for trial, 1878, and Luke Fildes’s Applicants for admission to a casual ward, 1874, ensuring that the Holloway collection encompassed a far more comprehensive survey of British nineteenth-century painting.49 For a complete list of the Holloway collection, see Chapel, p.14. Another late-Victorian private-turned-public collection, that of Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes, is predominantly figurative, with very few landscapes, and provides a greater contrast with Felton’s taste (see M. Bills (ed.), Art in the Age of Queen Victoria (exh. cat.), Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, 2001). Felton’s taste, by contrast, was more focused and more idiosyncratic – as one would expect from a private collector. Rather than purchasing with the public in mind, Felton bought simply for his own pleasure, and works such as Gerard Portielje’s The old bachelor, which shows an elderly gentleman surrounded by his possessions, would appear to have been acquired as much for its autobiographical appeal as for its artistic value (fig. 6).

Other works in Felton’s collection could be said to reflect his own life story as a successful merchant, manufacturer and pastoralist. The son of a leather currier, Felton’s preference for orderly scenes of rural industry was possibly forged in his youth in England, and reinforced by his ownership of Murray Downs. His boyhood on the East Anglian coast – where he enjoyed ‘scudding about in boats’, as he later loved paddle-steamer excursions in Port Philip Bay – no doubt sparked his liking for seascapes, reinforced by a trader’s interest in sea routes: he bought pictures of merchant ships or fishing scenes, such as Edwin Hayes’s Off the Mumbles Lighthouse and W. C. Knell’s Merchant ship on the Goodwin Sands, n.d., rather than events from naval history (fig. 8). He also loved, collected and gave to his friends photographs of coastal scenery, such as the sounds in New Zealand.

It is, however, Felton’s experience as a colonist, his emigrant’s view of the world, which has been singled out by previous scholars as the primary factor responsible for shaping his taste. Hoff and Vaughan both characterise his collection as ‘nostalgic’ and ‘nationalistic’, and Felton’s passion for rustic scenes from British country life would seem to support this claim. Certainly the linking of a British sense of national identity with an idealised rural existence had become commonplace during the early nineteenth century, particularly with the paintings of Constable and his followers.50 See E. K. Helsinger, Rural Scenes and National Representation, Princeton, 1997; P. Bishop, An Archetypal Constable: National Identity and the Geography of Nostalgia, London, 1995. And this identification continued to hold currency during the later Victorian period, spreading from the green southern counties to encompass the wilds of Scotland and

Wales.51 See M. Morgan, National Identities and Travel in Victorian Britain, Basingstoke, 2001. Morgan notes that Victorians regarded themselves as English, Scots or Welsh when in the country, but as British when abroad (p. 127). The concept of ‘British’ landscape was thus redefined by the spread of Empire. Certainly Felton’s collection, with its numerous Scottish and Welsh images, reflected this more general view of Home. As art historian Ysanne Holt has stressed: ‘Nostalgia is a vital undercurrent running though late Victorian and Edwardian painting informing painters’ references to pre-industrial, pre-modern golden ages as well as the utopian ideals of things to come’.52 Y. Holt, British Artists and the Modernist Landscape, Aldershot, 2003, p.6.

For colonists of Felton’s generation it is possible to argue that their nostalgia for Home, epitomised by a love of traditional British landscape, in all its variations,53 As Vaughan argues: ‘For a generation in “exile” the “natural” English landscape held enormous appeal. These were the pictures that the emigrants of the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s had brought with them; to a majority of colonists they were “sanctified” by their Englishness’ (p. 20). For further discussion of nostalgia and British landscape, and its particular relevance for emigrants, see A. C. Colley, Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture, London, 1998, pp. 32–53. was as much evidence of particular hopes for the future of Australia as an idealisation of the past. Transported to Australia, Felton’s pictures such as A scene in Kent – evening by James Webb (1825–1895), bit of Devonshire, 1887, by R. A. K. Marshall (1849–1923) (fig. 5), Cattle and trees by William Shayer (1787–1879), and An English rustic cottage by J. H. Mole (1814–1886) gained additional meaning. Productive farming landscapes of this type had only been recreated in the Australian colonies through trial and tribulation, and the slow acclimatisation of European farm animals and crops.54 Tom Griffiths has pointed out that farm animals were integral to the colonists’ ability to quickly settle and change the land, arguing: ‘domesticated animals … constituted an incidental and discounted dimension of imperialism’ (see T. Griffiths and L. Robin, (eds), Ecology and Empire, Environmental History of Settler Societies, Melbourne, 1997, p. 2). The authors would like to thank Jennifer Long for drawing this reference to their attention and for her invaluable comments on the text. By the 1890s recurring drought, rural depression, rabbits and inappropriate farming practices had driven many farm owners, large and small, to ruin. The continued taste for traditional images of rural prosperity was thus no simple nostalgia; it reflected a hope for a better future and a justification for the present as well as a sentimental longing for the past.

A similar complex nostalgia would appear to have informed, in part, Felton’s acquisition of Australian and New Zealand pictures, which again were nearly all landscapes. Hoff has pointed out that Felton had a strong holding of local art – over thirty works in all – including oil paintings, watercolours and sketches by Eugène von Guérard, Nicholas Chevalier, Louis Buvelot, H. J. Johnstone, Rupert Bunny, Charles Rolando, Ellis Rowan, John Mather, C. Blomfield, S. T. Gill, G. O’Brien and the ‘pioneer’ New Zealand artist, John Gully.55Vaughan notes that some ‘Australian’ artists, including Nicholas Chevalier, E. Wake Cook, John Glover and J. Skinner Prout, were represented by works from their European period (p. 22). Likewise, Ellis Rowan’s watercolours depicted European flowers rather than her trademark Australian flora. (New Zealand, it should be noted, was as much an ‘Australian’ colony as Victoria in Felton’s lifetime, and he had large business interests there.) Many of these works dated from the 1860s and 1870s, and consciously celebrated the Australasian wilderness, just as it was beginning to be transformed by white settlement. Thus, the Felton sale catalogue declared of Buvelot’s oil painting, Mt Martha, Victoria, 1870s, that ‘this excellent Buvelot is additionally interesting as a record of the early bush days, before the present roads and rail and settlement’: a point reiterated by the Argus, which claimed Felton’s watercolour Early Melbourne, 1853, by G. O’Brien, was ‘a valuable and interesting document being the present Queen’s-walk corner [in Melbourne] half a century ago’.56 Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., The Felton Collection, Paintings, p. 16; Argus, ‘The Felton Bequest’, 4 March 1904, clipping book, ANZ Trustees. Moreover, Felton’s Australasian works were not quarantined, but hung side by side with their European and continental counterparts – an eclectic juxtaposition which only reinforced the connections between the British landscapes and the colonial images.57 For connections between Australian landscapes of the 1860s and 1870s and ‘the absent landscapes of Europe’, see C. Bruce, ‘The nostalgic landscape’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. XIV, no. 2, 1999, pp. 111–27. Indeed, in Felton’s album, he carefully pasted a photograph of Buvelot’s Mt Martha, Victoria directly opposite H. W. B. Davis’s Boulogne from near the column (fig. 7). In this pairing it is the Australian image which is nostalgic, looking back to the Victorian-era countryside just before the advent of ‘civilisation’, while the European picture now points to the potential future, an idyllic rural image containing within it moral and social values that symbolise the continuity and order of the British Empire.58 As Anne Helmreich has argued: ‘As a symbol of national identity [idyllic rural landscape] offered up a vision of the nation as domestic, moral, pure, ordered and respectful of tradition … The cottage ideal was the mirror image of Imperialism: one could only go forth and conquer new lands because of the powerful feelings of security generated by one’s image of home’. A. Helmreich, ‘The marketing of Helen Allingham: the English cottage and national identity’, in Gendering Landscape Art, eds S. Adams & A. Gruetzner Robins, Manchester, 2000, pp. 58–9.

Felton’s collection and the National Gallery of Victoria

A codicil to Felton’s will allowed the National Gallery of Victoria to select anything it wished from his collection ‘for the purposes of and for exhibition in the said National Gallery’, before the rest was sold (fig. 8). A committee was appointed to make the selection and, advised by the director, Bernard Hall, they chose only twenty-nine pictures (fifteen of them oils), three Japanese ivories, one bronze figurine by A.-E. Carrier-Belleuse, an ‘Art Cabinet’, a large number of books and periodicals on art and five large albums of photographs of European art and museum collections.59 The books and albums are now in the State Library of Victoria. Nearly all the pictures were landscapes; three of which – Bonington’s Low tide at Boulogne, James Webb’s Lock on the Thames, 1885, and Thomas Creswick’s Stepping stones, 1844 – Felton had acquired from the Lynch sale. Richard Beavis’s The charcoal burners, 1874, had been prominently displayed in the Esplanade, as had A fête champêtre, mid eighteenth century, an unusually good Rubens copy which the Gallery accepted as ‘attributed to him and with great probability’ (figs 4 & 5). The watercolours selected included Heidelberg castle, n.d., by David Roberts, Near Arundel, 1882, by E. Wake Cook, and two Buvelots, Victorian scene, n.d., and Yarra flats, 1871 (fig. 1).60 The Gallery’s official receipt for the works is in the ANZ Trustees files. Other pictures selected were: J. C. Adams, Trespassers, 1878; G. Portielje, The old bachelor, 1885; G. A. Campriani, On the Grand Canal, n.d.; Keeley Halswelle, Green-robed senators. n.d.; Pollock Nisbet, The edge of the forest, 1879; J. B. Pyne, Pandy Mills, Wales, 1847; after van Dyck, Cornelius van der Geest, n.d.; F. Whitehead, Stony weir, n.d.; Richard Wilson (later relegated to ‘manner of’), Landscape with figures, n.d.; W. L. Leitch, Italian scene, 1876; Max Ludby, Riverscene, 1884; R. A. K. Marshall, A bit of Devonshire n.d.; James Webb, Gloucester City and cathedral, n.d.; G. O’Brien Early Melbourne, 1853; and G. Simoni, The marble mosque, 1879. There were also two engravings and three large photographs of Roman scenes and the bronze sculpture by Carrier-Belleuse.

Publication of the list, shorter than expected, prompted an outburst from the press. The dominant taste in Melbourne greatly valued the kinds of pictures Felton had collected, and wanted the Gallery to keep more.61 Vaughan identifies ‘collectors of English landscape’ as the largest category of art collectors in 1880s Melbourne (p. 15). Complaining that ‘there are still pictures in the Felton Collection for which room should have been found’, the art critic of the Argus described Felton’s taste as ‘admirably just’.62 Argus, 21 April 1904. An anonymous but apparently knowledgeable correspondent in the Argus claimed that most had a sound attribution, coming from ‘notable collectors’ such as Arthur Tooth, Sir Coutts Lindsay, and ‘the Lynch, Fisher, Kinnear, Austin and St Alban’s collections’ (Spretae injuria formae, Argus, 25 April 1905.) But Joshua Lake, writing in the sale catalogue, took pains to point out that ‘nearly all the greater names in this collection are already well represented in our Melbourne Gallery by suitably large and important canvases’ and wall-space had to be reserved ‘for the large future accession to come from The Felton Bequest’. The Gallery had ‘wisely refrained from selecting any works except those it needed to supplement its present vacancies’.63 J. Lake, in Gemmell, Tuckett, The Felton Collection, Pictures, 1904, pp. 5–6.

As Vaughan has noted, the degree of duplication between Alfred Felton’s collection and that of the NGV was indeed remarkable.64 Vaughan notes ‘Felton is one of the few collectors whose pictures consistently have parallels in the National Gallery of Victoria [‘s holdings] of landscape schools’ (p. 21). Thirty-one of the artists in Felton’s collection were already represented in the Gallery collection, including Peter Graham, J. C. Horsley, John Mogford, August Friedrich Albrecht Schenck, David Law, Karl Heffner, James Webb, Benjamin Williams Leader, David Roberts, W. Clarkson Stanfield, E. Wake Cook, William Melby, Louis Buvelot, Nicholas Chevalier, Ellis Rowan and John Mather, indicating the major role the institution played in setting standards of connoisseurship and taste for the colony. Many of Felton’s pictures were smaller examples of much larger paintings already represented in the Gallery: thus the immensely popular painting by A. F. A. Schenck entitled Anguish, c.1878, in the collection of the NGV, purchased in 1878, found its counterpart in Felton’s smaller work by the same artist: Winter – the last of the flock, n.d. Similarly, both collections held three oil paintings by the leading painter of Scottish landscapes, Peter Graham. The 1904 sale catalogue eagerly stressed these parallels, stating of Felton’s painting by John Mogford, The Isle of Arran from the Isle of Bute, n.d.: ‘One of the first pictures purchased for the Melbourne Gallery (in 1864) was John Mogford’s “Watergate Bay”, a rather smaller example than this; it has always remained a great favourite.’ And of Felton’s A Surrey landscape, with sheep, n.d. (fig. 3), by George Cole, it declared: ‘[Cole’s] picture of the “Harvest Waggon” – a work very similar to this, and exactly the same size – was bought by the Melbourne Gallery for £70.’ 65 Gemmell, Tuckett, The Felton Collection, Pictures,1904, pp. 8, 12.

The strong influence of the NGV’s purchasing policy in shaping the composition of collections like Felton’s is significant. It is clear that commercial galleries were swift to capitalise on this situation, with dealers such as Koekkoek & Sons ensuring that a supply of similar works by artists represented in the Gallery collection were available for sale. Thus the work of British artist James Webb, who was represented in the NGV by the large and popular oil painting, Rotterdam at sunset, 1868, subsequently appeared regularly in the Koekkoek Gallery catalogues with smaller examples suitable for private buyers. The records of another Melbourne dealer, Alexander Fletcher, also reveal a strong correspondence between the Gallery collection and his own offerings.66 See Koekkoek sale catalogues in State Library of Victoria. For Fletcher, see Jordan, (forthcoming 2005).

Felton’s collection can thus be seen to reflect many of the ideas and influences that formed the foundations of the art world in late-nineteenth-century Victoria. Moreover, his collection – which clearly is the end result of many hours spent studying the works in the NGV, as well as the large collection of art books in his rooms – sheds important light on his relationship with this institution, which has too often been considered to commence only with his great bequest. Unlike his friends, he took no part in the management of the Gallery or its sister institutions because it was not in his nature to sit on committees, but that does not mean he did not frequent galleries.

Felton’s private collection is now dispersed, but this article has sought to reassess its nature and quality – so much maligned by early twentieth-century scholars – and its wider significance in terms of colonial connoisseurship and collecting. Seen in this context, his posthumous generosity to the Gallery is readily explicable.

Dr Alison Inglis, Senior lecturer in Art History, University of Melbourne (in 2004).

Prof. John Poynter, Honorary Professorial Fellow, Australia Centre, University of Melbourne (in 2004).

Notes

1     Australasian, ‘The Felton pictures’, 2 April 1904, n.p., clippings book, ANZ Executors and Trustee Co. Ltd.

2     Argus, ‘The Felton Pictures’, 21 April 1904, n.p., clippings book, ANZ Trustees.

3     D. Lindsay (ed.), The Felton Bequest: An Historical Record, Melbourne, 1963, pp. 5–6.

4     ibid., p. 6.

5     L. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861–1968, Melbourne, 1975, p. 61.

6     U. Hoff, The Felton Bequest, Melbourne, 1983, p. 1.

7     G. Vaughan, in Art Collectors in Colonial Victoria 1854–1892: An Analysis of Taste and Patronage, BA Honours, University of Melbourne 1976, pp. 19,21–3. These and preceding passages are quoted in J. Poynter, Mr Felton’s Bequests, Melbourne, 2003, on which Poynter’s contribution to this article is based.

8     Russell Grimwade papers, University of Melbourne archive.

9     A. Inglis, ‘Art at second hand: Prints after European pictures in Victoria before 1870’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. 7,1988, pp. 51–63.

10     G. Waterfield (ed.), Palaces of Art, Art Galleries in Britain 1790–1990 (exh. cat.), Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 1991, pp. 159–70; C. Denney, ‘The Grosvenor Gallery as palace of art, an exhibition model’, in The Grosvenor Gallery, A Palace of Art in Victorian England, eds S. Casteras & C. Denney, New Haven and London, 1996, pp. 11–17.

11     D. S. Macleod, Art and the Victorian Middle Class, Money and the Making of Cultural Identity, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 234–8.

12     Vaughan, pp. 48–78; C. Jordan, ‘Fletcher’s of Collins Street: A Melbourne art dealer of the 1880s’ (forthcoming, La Trobe Journal, 2005). Fletcher was the local representative of Tooth & Sons. The authors would like to thank Caroline Jordan for allowing them access to her research.

13     Alfred Felton, letter to F. S. Grimwade, 2 June 1884, letterbook, records of Felton Bequests, La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria.

14     See R. Grimwade, Flinders lane. Melbourne, 1947, p.7, for a description of the small ivory tortoise-shaped bell (used to summon his secretary) that was bought in Brindisi to replace a more efficient metal one.

15     Felton’s collection of sculpture (mostly French bronzes, with some marble antique copies) exemplified his taste for naturalism and romance. His statuettes by Carrier-Belleuse, the Siren and Dubois’s Dancing girl and decorative timepieces by Gregoire (such as the black marble clock surmounted by a bronze Viking and maid) were technically brilliant and visually evocative. Like the Japanese objets d’art, no Victorian interior was complete without figurines in bronze, Parian ware or terracotta. Felton may have acquired these works because of the high quality of the French sculpture at the 1888 Melbourne International Exhibition that received a first-class medal. For Felton’s collection of six marble statues and over thirty bronze statues and decorative pieces, see Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., The Felton Collection. Art Treasures. Marble statuary, bronzes, carved ivories, sterling silver, art furniture, china and curios, 29 April 1904, pp. 4–5.

16     Gemmell, Tuckett & Co. described Felton’s carved ivories as ‘undoubtedly the finest collection ever submitted to public competition in Melbourne’, Art Treasures, p. 6.

17     See Liberty & Co., Eastern Antiquities (cat.), c.1880, in T. Sako and T. Watanabe, Japan and Britain, An Aesthetic Dialogue 1850–1930, London, 1991, p. 131, for a description of Japanese decorative arts ‘including pottery, metalwork, lacquer work and “netsuke” (ivory carving) with prices ranging from seven shillings and six pence … to 50 guineas’.

18     Grimwade, 1947, p. 66.

19     F. S. Grimwade, letter to J. Bedloe Goddard, 24 February 1886, partners’ letterbook, Drug Houses of Australia Collection, University of Melbourne archive. Later he reported a possible buyer for six of the pictures.

20     Letter from Campbell to Felton, 30 March 1890, quoted in Mrs Croft, History of Murray Downs Station (privately printed, Swan Hill, c.1965), p. 23.

21     D. Thomas, Rupert Bunny 1864–1947, Melbourne, 1970, pp. 12,16.

22     Age, 13 November 1889. See also B. Kane, Sanctity and Mystery: The Symbolist Art of Rupert Bunny (exh. cat.), Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 2001, p. 56.

23     This work had been exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1890 (see Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, Melbourne, 1908, p. 111). Felton also gave two works to the newly established Geelong Art Gallery in 1900: von Guérard’s The Weatherboard Falls and Charles Rolando’s Watt’s River (see S. Shears, A Guide to the Geelong Art Gallery and its collections, 1989, p.5).

24     The Home, 1 January 1926, reprinted in Historical Record of the Felton Bequest, supplement no. 1, pp. 99–103.

25     This album lacks its front cover, but bears Caire’s label; an entry in Felton’s ledger, showing a payment of £20 to Caire recorded on 15 May 1902 probably refers to it.

26     The overflowing condition of Felton’s apartment can be compared to the cluttered rooms of another bachelor collector, David Scott Mitchell, founder of the Mitchell Library, Sydney (see R. Tyrrell, David Scott Mitchell, Sydney, 1936, pp. 10–11). (The authors thank Terence Lane, Senior Curator of 19th Century Australian Art, NGV, for drawing this example to their attention.)

27     Alfred Felton, letter to Dr Phillips, 18 December 1895, ‘AF no. 1 general’, letterbook, records of Felton Bequests, La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection.

28     Grimwade, 1947, p. 66.

29     Dickson Gregory, letter to Russell Grimwade, 30 April 1934, and his note to the ANZ Trustees, 1905. Russell Grimwade papers, University of Melbourne archive.

30     Russell Grimwade papers.

31     Gemmell, Tuckett, The Felton Collection. Catalogue of the Magnificent Oil Paintings and Watercolours, 27 and 28 April 1904. Most of Felton’s pictures went under the hammer at the auction, the proceeds advertised as going in equal parts ‘to the Hospitals and the National Gallery’. His sculpture and decorative arts were auctioned separately the next day (Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., Art Treasures, 1904). The sale of the pictures was, however, widely reported (the proprietors of the Australasian and the Leader published pages of ‘photographic reproductions’ on 2 April and the Australasian again on April 16 (fig. 81).

32     The entire collection (those selected by the Gallery and those in the sale) comprised 113 oils and seventy-eight watercolours. The paintings at Murray Downs, which belonged to the partnership Campbell and Felton, were not included in the sale. Thanks to absentee ownership, the interior furnishings at Murray Downs remained little changed between Felton’s death and 1995. It is likely that some or all of the sixteen paintings listed in the 1995 inventory were those sent up by Felton in 1889; certainly the nine pictures sold by Sotheby’s in August 1996 conformed to his taste.

33     R. Treble, Great Victorian Pictures: Their Paths to Fame (exh. cat.), Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1978, p. 49.

34     Felton’s version of this picture was entitled A highland spate, 1874, and had been acquired from the Austin Collection. For the popularity of Graham’s A spate in the highlands, see R. Treble, 1978, pp. 41–2.

35     S. Palmer, ‘The Latest in Artistic Endeavours’, in Victorian Icon, The Royal Exhibition Building Melbourne, by D. Dunstan, Melbourne, 1996, p.211. The contemporary press described many of Felton’s works as ‘fine and characteristic examples of their authors’ (‘The Felton pictures’, Argus, 21 April 1904, ANZ Trustees).

36     The sale catalogue of Felton’s library has not survived, but the books that the National Gallery of Victoria acquired after his death indicate an impressive knowledge of art and British art history in particular: Ruskin’s Modern Painters, Art of England, Lectures and Seven Lamps of Architecture; Waagen’s Art Treasures of Britain and Galleries of Great Britain; Turner’s Liber Studiorum, Rivers of France and Seine et Loire; Pyne’s English Lake Scenery, Gallery of Contemporary Art and Portrait Gallery; Jameson’s Italian Painters and Sacred and Legendary Art; Viardot’s History of Painters; Anderson’s Pictorial Arts of Japan; books on the Wallace Collection, the Dresden Gallery and serial volumes of The Studio, Fine Arts Quarterly Review, Art Journal, and Magazine of Art (see Anon., ‘The Felton Bequest’, Argus, 4 March 1904). Felton also owned a copy of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, with William Blake’s hand-coloured engravings, from the Sir William à Beckett collection (see I. Zdanowicz, ‘The Melbourne Blakes – Their acquisition and critical fortunes in Australia’, in William Blake in the Collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, eds M. Butlin & T. Gott, 1989, p. 18).

37     See R. & S. Redgrave, A Century of British Painters, Oxford, 1981.

38     S. Wilcox & C. Newell, Victorian Landscape Watercolours (exh. cat.), Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1992, p. 25.

39     See G. Reitlinger, The Economics of Taste, vol. 1, London, 1961, pp. 102–7.

40     See L. Herrmann, Nineteenth Century British Painting, London, 2000, pp. 86–8, 160–2. Interestingly, Felton may have acquired two copies after Turner – which were displayed in the dining room at his Murray Downs property.

41     See M. Warner, The Victorians, British Painting 1837–1901 (exh. cat.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1996. pp. 35–6, 178–9; C. Wood, Victorian Painting, London, 1999. pp. 290–7.

42     The Art Journal in 1864 claimed ‘Landscape Art, speaking generally, may be divided between schools of detail and effect’ (Wilcox & Newell, 1992, p.49).

43     Felton notebook, University of Melbourne archive.

44     Vaughan, p. 22.

45     Seascapes and Venetian views – favourite Victorian subjects – formed thematic subcategories within Felton’s collection, with twenty marine works and ten Venetian pictures in total. See Wood, 1999, pp. 340–51, 363.

46     J. Chapel, Victorian Taste, the Complete Catalogue Of Paintings at the Royal Holloway College, London, 1982, p. 9.

47     Times, London, May 1882, quoted in Chapel, 1982, p. 13.

48     Holloway obituary, Art Journal, 1883, quoted in Chapel, 1982, p.14.

49     For a complete list of the Holloway collection, see Chapel, p.14. Another late-Victorian private-turned-public collection, that of Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes, is predominantly figurative, with very few landscapes, and provides a greater contrast with Felton’s taste (see M. Bills (ed.), Art in the Age of Queen Victoria (exh. cat.), Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, 2001).

50     See E. K. Helsinger, Rural Scenes and National Representation, Princeton, 1997; P. Bishop, An Archetypal Constable: National Identity and the Geography of Nostalgia, London, 1995.

51     See M. Morgan, National Identities and Travel in Victorian Britain, Basingstoke, 2001. Morgan notes that Victorians regarded themselves as English, Scots or Welsh when in the country, but as British when abroad (p. 127). The concept of ‘British’ landscape was thus redefined by the spread of Empire. Certainly Felton’s collection, with its numerous Scottish and Welsh images, reflected this more general view of Home.

52     Y. Holt, British Artists and the Modernist Landscape, Aldershot, 2003, p.6.

53     As Vaughan argues: ‘For a generation in “exile” the “natural” English landscape held enormous appeal. These were the pictures that the emigrants of the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s had brought with them; to a majority of colonists they were “sanctified” by their Englishness’ (p. 20). For further discussion of nostalgia and British landscape, and its particular relevance for emigrants, see A. C. Colley, Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture, London, 1998, pp. 32–53.

54     Tom Griffiths has pointed out that farm animals were integral to the colonists’ ability to quickly settle and change the land, arguing: ‘domesticated animals … constituted an incidental and discounted dimension of imperialism’ (see T. Griffiths and L. Robin, (eds), Ecology and Empire, Environmental History of Settler Societies, Melbourne, 1997, p. 2). The authors would like to thank Jennifer Long for drawing this reference to their attention and for her invaluable comments on the text.

55     Vaughan notes that some ‘Australian’ artists, including Nicholas Chevalier, E. Wake Cook, John Glover and J. Skinner Prout, were represented by works from their European period (p. 22). Likewise, Ellis Rowan’s watercolours depicted European flowers rather than her trademark Australian flora.

56     Gemmell, Tuckett & Co., The Felton Collection, Paintings, p. 16; Argus, ‘The Felton Bequest’, 4 March 1904, clipping book, ANZ Trustees.

57     For connections between Australian landscapes of the 1860s and 1870s and ‘the absent landscapes of Europe’, see C. Bruce, ‘The nostalgic landscape’, Australian Journal of Art, vol. XIV, no. 2, 1999, pp. 111–27.

58     As Anne Helmreich has argued: ‘As a symbol of national identity [idyllic rural landscape] offered up a vision of the nation as domestic, moral, pure, ordered and respectful of tradition … The cottage ideal was the mirror image of Imperialism: one could only go forth and conquer new lands because of the powerful feelings of security generated by one’s image of home’. A. Helmreich, ‘The marketing of Helen Allingham: the English cottage and national identity’, in Gendering Landscape Art, eds S. Adams & A. Gruetzner Robins, Manchester, 2000, pp. 58–9.

59     The books and albums are now in the State Library of Victoria.

60     The Gallery’s official receipt for the works is in the ANZ Trustees files. Other pictures selected were: J. C. Adams, Trespassers, 1878; G. Portielje, The old bachelor, 1885; G. A. Campriani, On the Grand Canal, n.d.; Keeley Halswelle, Green-robed senators. n.d.; Pollock Nisbet, The edge of the forest, 1879; J. B. Pyne, Pandy Mills, Wales, 1847; after van Dyck, Cornelius van der Geest, n.d.; F. Whitehead, Stony weir, n.d.; Richard Wilson (later relegated to ‘manner of’), Landscape with figures, n.d.; W. L. Leitch, Italian scene, 1876; Max Ludby, Riverscene, 1884; R. A. K. Marshall, A bit of Devonshire n.d.; James Webb, Gloucester City and cathedral, n.d.; G. O’Brien Early Melbourne, 1853; and G. Simoni, The marble mosque, 1879. There were also two engravings and three large photographs of Roman scenes and the bronze sculpture by Carrier-Belleuse.

61     Vaughan identifies ‘collectors of English landscape’ as the largest category of art collectors in 1880s Melbourne (p. 15).

62     Argus, 21 April 1904. An anonymous but apparently knowledgeable correspondent in the Argus claimed that most had a sound attribution, coming from ‘notable collectors’ such as Arthur Tooth, Sir Coutts Lindsay, and ‘the Lynch, Fisher, Kinnear, Austin and St Alban’s collections’ (Spretae injuria formae, Argus, 25 April 1905.)

63     J. Lake, in Gemmell, Tuckett, The Felton Collection, Pictures, 1904, pp. 5–6.

64     Vaughan notes ‘Felton is one of the few collectors whose pictures consistently have parallels in the National Gallery of Victoria [‘s holdings] of landscape schools’ (p. 21).

65     Gemmell, Tuckett, The Felton Collection, Pictures,1904, pp. 8, 12.

66     See Koekkoek sale catalogues in State Library of Victoria. For Fletcher, see Jordan, (forthcoming 2005).