fig. 1 
Henry Burn

The National Gallery of Victoria’s Connell Collection provoked great excitement when first exhibited in 1914. It was predicted that John Connell’s massive gift, comprising furniture, decorative arts, and pictures, would ‘prove of inestimable value and interest to the student, to the connoisseur and to the inquiring public alike, inasmuch as it embraces certain branches of the crafts in which the gallery has hitherto not specialised to any exhaustive extent’.1‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection’, Age, Melbourne, 11 September 1914, p. 10. Today, the National Gallery of Victoria recognises the Connell Collection as having considerable historical significance. It laid the foundations for the Gallery’s specialised collection of decorative arts and established this area as ‘a vital part of the Gallery’s overall collection’.2P. McCaughey, foreword to A. Galbally, The Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 7; see also T. Lane, ‘Antiques in Victoria: Collectors and Collections’, in Treasures from Private Collections (exh. cat.), Sotheby’s, Melbourne, 1993, p. 8. On a broader scale, it helped educate and form the taste of a whole generation of Melburnians, as had been predicted in 1914.3Terence Lane, interviews with the author, Melbourne, 1994; Lane, p. 8. 

John Henry Connell offered his collection to the Gallery’s Trustees in 1913 ‘on the very generous terms that they might take the collection as a whole or any portions of it that they thought fit’.4E. L. Armstrong & R. D. Boys, The Book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1906–1931, Melbourne, 1932, p. 23; see also ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria, vol. 3, no. 3, 1949, p. 2. Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859–1935), then Director of the Gallery, proceeded to select more than seven hundred works, including paintings, drawings, prints, furniture, silver, ceramics, statuary, arms, armour and miscellaneous objects, from Connell’s house in Punt Road, South Yarra.5The Gallery took possession of more than seven hundred items in February 1914; two more items were received on 4 September 1914. Hall’s selection was received by the Gallery on 2 February 1914 and the Collection was opened to the public, at the Gallery’s then premises within the Public Library complex in Swanston Street, Melbourne, on 10 September.6Although the official opening took place in Buvelot Hall, the Collection itself was displayed in Barry Hall and Barry Gallery (see L B. Hall, ‘The Connell Collection’, Art in Australia, no. 5, 1918, n.p.; Armstrong & Boys, ρ 26, ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2; L. B. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861 to 1968. A Search for a Collection, Melbourne, [1970], p. 81; Lane, p. 8). 

Connell donated many additional works to the Collection over the following thirty-eight years, also giving a small number of pieces to other organisations. He had originally intended to donate to the Gallery those works that remained in his private collection at the time of his death In April 1952, however, eight months before his death, in December that year, he changed his will.7Will of John H. Connell (d. 9/12/1952), 4 April 1952, Public Record Office, Laverton, Victoria, no. 462711. All his residual silver, china, engravings, pictures, antiques, clocks, carpets, crystal, furniture and furnishings were now left to his niece, Mona Harvey, who had cared for Connell and his second wife for almost twenty years. 

Mona Harvey donated a few of these works to the Gallery, but the majority were auctioned by Leonard Joel Auctioneers on 24 June 1953.8See The John Η. Connell Collection (sale cat ), Leonard Joel Auctioneers, Melbourne, 25 June 1953. The 346 lots, from Connell’s flat in Collins Street, Melbourne, and from his house in Healesville, an hour’s drive from the city, reveal a plethora of historically interesting works, including an antique mahogany Scottish Georgian secretaire, which had belonged to Melbourne’s first surveyor-general, Robert Hoddle, and a Sèvres porcelain gold-lined snuffbox, once owned by an early governor of New South Wales, Sir Lachlan Macquarie.9ibid., cat. nos 16, 50. Works by well-known Australian artists, among them Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, John Longstaff, Norman Lindsay, Lionel Lindsay and Harold Herbert, also featured in the Connell Estate. Perhaps the most famous of these was Early summer – gorse in bloom, 1888 (now Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide), one of four works by Streeton.10ibid., cat. no. 169. 

John Henry Connell: a brief biography 

The magnitude and content of the Connell Collection is extraordinary, particularly when considered in relation to Connell’s background. The second of ten children, John Henry Connell was born on 24 May 1860 in East Collingwood, Melbourne, to William Henry Connell of Dublin, and Mary Connell (née Ingall) of London.11William Connell was born in Dublin in 1827 and Mary Ingall was born in London in 1839. Both emigrated to Australia in 1849 and were married in St Paul’s Church, Melbourne, in 1857. John Connell had an elder brother, Frederick William, a younger brother, Wilfred Bass, and seven sisters: Sophia, Elizabeth Ellen, Sarah Isabella, Winifred, Thyrza Lucy, Dorothea and Ellen Deborah.

  

Although family circumstances forced Connell to leave school at the age of thirteen, he was to become an extremely successful businessman, a recognised connoisseur of paintings and antique furniture, and a respected member of the Melbourne art community.12Connell family member, interviews with the author, Melbourne, 20 July 1994, 15 August 1994, 14 September 1994. 

Connell married Emily Baker (1866–1913), the daughter of Londoners John Baker and Emily Baker (née Mathieson) in Fitzroy in 1888. Emily Connell is likely to have had a very strong influence on the formation of her husband’s collection, though no documentation of her involvement has survived. Relatives of the family believe that she acquired a number of works on her own account, and both John and Emily Connell are recorded as joint lenders of English furniture, porcelain and silver to Melbourne’s Annual Exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Society in 1908. Two portraits of Emily by John Longstaff are features of the Connell Collection and testify to her love for and interest in art. Emily died on 23 April 1913. The couple had no children. 

Connell’s second marriage, to the fiery Ellen, or ‘Nellie’, Harris (1870–1950), the widow of Connell’s cousin, James Henry Albert Cavanagh, took place on 27 September 1913. Nellie does not appear to have taken a great interest in the Connell Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria, though she is recorded as having donated three specimens of Irish lace and two pieces of French lace in 1944.13Keith Murdoch, President, Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, letter to Mrs John H. Connell, 11 September 1944, private collection. An extremely fashionable woman, she loved fine clothes and jewellery. In this respect, she made a fitting partner for her husband, who was described as ‘an impressive figure with long white hair [who] … looked more like a parson than a publican’.14J. Stuart, ‘The Toast to His Victory’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 4 May 1966, p. 14. 

John Connell’s fortune was founded upon the hotel industry in early Melbourne (fig. 1). As a young man he worked at the Prince’s Bridge Hotel, which was then owned by Henry Young and by Connell’s uncle Thomas Jackson and which would later become a Melbourne landmark, known simply as ‘Young and Jackson’s’.15Connell’s aunt, Sarah Isabella Cavanagh (née Connell), married Thomas Jackson in 1878; John Connell’s relationship to Henry Young is not known, though it is thought they were blood relations (see ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, Herald, Melbourne, 10 December 1952, p. 1; ‘John Connell Dies at 92: Burial Today’, Sun, Melbourne, 11 December 1952, p. 24; ‘Melbourne Has Lost Its “King of Counter-Lunch”’, Argus, Melbourne, 11 December 1952, p. 5; ‘Obituary: Mr John Connell’, Age, Melbourne, 11 December 1952, p. 2). Connell’s family also appears to have had several other connections with the liquor industry. His maternal grandfather was a distiller in London, and the Baker family similarly had dealings in the English liquor industry, it is thought they were connected with the Tenant family, who were brewers in England (Philip Harris, telephone interview with the author, 20 August 1994). Connell’s ‘larger than life’ personality, combined with his commitment to this popular establishment, frequently got him involved in unusual and exciting situations. His name became synonymous with the notorious ‘unholy alliance’, for example, that was briefly formed between the Prince’s Bridge Hotel and St Paul’s Cathedral in 1897: 

Young and Jackson’s was in danger from a big fire, so Johnny called for volunteers to roll the barrels across Swanston St. to the safety of St. Paul’s porch. The barrels were brought back the next morning before the first church service began.16‘Melbourne Has Lost Its “King of Counter-Lunch”’, p. 5.

In 1900, Connell became the lessee of the Railway Hotel, which was situated on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Flinders Lane.17See ‘John Connell Dies at 92’, p. 7. The hotel was particularly popular among country people staying in Melbourne, due to its close proximity to Flinders Street and Spencer Street railway stations.18Lane interviews. Affectionately known as ‘Johnny Connell’s’, the Railway Hotel introduced Melbourne to free counter lunches in the early 1900s, earning Connell the nickname ‘King of the Counter Lunch’: ‘Gad, sir! He provided serves of hot joints of lunch-lamb, mutton and beef, free to customers, provided they bought a 3d imperial pint of beer’.19‘Melbourne Has Lost Its “King of Counter-Lunch”’, p. 5. Connell sold the licence to the Railway Hotel in 1938 but retained the freehold; Matthew Cody, the son of Connell’s close friend Pierce Cody, was subsequently asked to run the business (see ‘Obituary: Mr John Connell’, p. 2; ‘Lunch-King’s Antiques’, Argus, Melbourne, 25 June 1953, p. 4, Stuart, pp. 14–15). 

But what inspired Connell’s interest in art and what motivated him to form a collection? Although he may have begun to collect art as early as the 1880s,20Lane interviews. collecting was not a widespread phenomenon in Australia during the nineteenth century. It was not until the early twentieth century that the art market assumed a higher profile in the Melbourne community. Connell’s undertaking to form a collection was probably influenced by Henry Young and Thomas Jackson, whose extensive collection of Victorian paintings and South Sea Island weapons lined the walls of the Prince’s Bridge Hotel.21See J. A. Kershaw, Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, letter to John Henry Connell, 30 July 1926, private collection; ‘Chloe’s Home up for Sale’, Herald, Melbourne, 24 September 1979, p. 1; K. Dunstan, ‘Chloe – Forever Young (& Jackson’s)’, Age Good Weekend, Melbourne, n.d., pp. 52–4. A later influence may have been the art collection of Bernard Hall, who arrived in Australia from England in 1892 to take up the directorship of the National Gallery of Victoria.22See Cox, p. 48; Lane, p. 7. The diversity of works acquired by Connell, who would almost certainly have come into contact with Hall’s collection, given that the two men worked closely together over a number of years, mirrors the breadth of Hall’s holdings of pewter, glass, furniture and oriental antiques. 

The intensity with which Connell pursued his interests in sport, dog breeding and hotels is reflected in his penchant for collecting art and in the magnitude of his gift to the National Gallery of Victoria. Although his interest in art was initially that of the amateur collector, he increased his knowledge by acquiring a library of art books and by familiarising himself with the collections of others. In time, he earned a reputation as an ‘authority on Antiques and Art’23Foreword to The John H. Connell Collection, n.p. and in 1922 he became a Trustee of the Gallery, retaining this position until 1945.24Connell was appointed a Trustee on 17 February 1922 and retired from this post on 19 March 1945 (see Armstrong & Boys, p. 51).

In later life, Connell became increasingly eccentric. He is known to have kept a substantial number of antique clocks in his Collins Street apartment, and he would wind them without fail at 10 am every Sunday.25See ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15. He also adopted a pet cockatoo, which sat perched on his shoulder everywhere he went (fig. 2).26Connell family member interview, 20 July 1994. Connell died at the age of ninety-two, having led a very active life right up until his wife’s death in 1950. The couple were buried in the Connell family vault at the Healesville cemetery. 

John Connell pursued an extraordinary number of interests. A dedicated sportsman, he was 

a member of the Victoria Racing Club, a foundation member of the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club, with which he rowed successfully, and a member of almost every football club in Melbourne … with Collingwood as his favourite.27See ‘John Connell Dies at 92’, p. 7.

Dog breeding was also a major interest. Having established a stud for mastiffs at his property in Punt Road, South Yarra, Connell became known as a breeder of champions.28See ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15. He was also popular and well loved. As a contemporary document put it: 

[H]is collection of friends is legion … springing from a kindness of heart that is always ready to help others less well endowed. Those privileged to know him intimately are received with a charming smile, a friendly pat on the shoulder, and can be assured of encouragement and advice from his rich store of human understanding.29‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. 

Connell as collector and philanthropist 

Although the early provenance of most works in the Connell Collection is not known, a general history of the Collection can be pieced together. Its origins can be traced back to Connell’s mother and grandmother, who brought a few items of furniture to Australia from England in 1849. Other works may have been acquired from the families of early settlers.30Lane interviews. Connell is also known to have bought art from Melbourne art dealers, including Frank Godden and the firm of Robertson and Moffat.31See Hall, n.p.; ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. Further additions were made to the Collection following Connell’s travels in England, France, Belgium, Ceylon and elsewhere in the period immediately following World War I.32See ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2, ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15; ‘John Connell Dies at 92’, p. 7. The two editions of the Catalogue of the Connell Collection, published in 1925 and 1937, list the complete collection to 1937.33Catalogue of the Connell Collection, Melbourne, 1925; Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 2nd edn, Melbourne, 1937. A work with a particularly interesting provenance is a late-eighteenth-century mahogany harpsichord. Imported from England as an item of stage furniture for John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera in 1923, it was purchased by Connell at the end of the play’s season.34See Armstrong & Boys, p. 55. Another intriguing history is that of a sterling silver Georgian teapot. Originally presented to Dame Nellie Melba by the Duchess of Abercorn, it was given by Dame Nellie to Connell to add to his collection in 1915.35John Henry Connell, letter to National Gallery of Victoria Trustees, 23 June 1915, private collection, Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, p. 36. 

A large component of the Connell Collection is a group of works once owned by Australia’s leading Colonial Revival architect, William Hardy Wilson (1881–1955).36See T. Lane & J. Serle, Australians at Home: A Documentary History of Australian Domestic Interiors from 1788 to 1914, Melbourne, 1990, p. 407. Wilson had actively acquired antique furniture, pictures, china, fabrics, textiles, pewter and glass in England and Europe between 1905 and 1910, with a view to forming a collection of national importance.37William Hardy Wilson, letter to W. H. Gill, 22 September 1913, private collection, K. Fahy, C. Simpson & A. Simpson, Nineteenth Century Australian Furniture, Sydney, 1985, p. 10. Although this collection, an early manifestation of the Georgian Revival movement in Australia,38Wilson letter, 22 September 1913. For Wilson’s writings on other collections, see W. Hardy Wilson, ‘Collections of Old Furniture, Textiles, Glass, Porcelain, Plate and Objets d’Art in Australia’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. VIII, no. [2], March–April 1911, pp. 229–33; ‘Australian Collections of Old Furniture, Pictures, Textiles, Porcelain, Class, Silver and Objets d’Art: No. 1 – 17th and 18th Century English Furniture in the Collection of the Author’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. VIII, no. 3, May–June 1911, pp. 257–64, ‘Australian Collections of Old Furniture, Pictures, Textiles, Porcelain, Glass, Silver and Objets d’Art: No. 2 – A Century of English Chairs (1660–1670), Examples in the Possession of the Author’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. VIII, no. 4, July–August 1911, pp. 295–300; and his ‘Arrangement of Furnishings and Pictures: Examples in the Home of the Author’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. IX, no. 1, January–February 1912, pp. 412–17. was offered to Connell in its entirety, he is thought to have purchased from it only furniture, glass and possibly rugs.39See Hall, n.p.; Lane, p. 8. 

The National Gallery of Victoria was not the only recipient of Connell’s generosity. He donated works of art to several public organisations and lent works to various exhibitions. The Commercial Travellers Association of Victoria, for example, received Streeton’s Between the lights, Prince’s Bridge, 1888 (now private collection, Sydney), in 1914.40James T. Wares, Secretary, Commercial Travellers Association of Victoria, letter to John Henry Connell, 29 July 1914, private collection; Connell family member interview, 20 July 1994. China was lent to Melbourne’s Annual Exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Society in 1908 

Connell also supported community groups such as the Shire of Nunawading and the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club, of which he was elected vice-president and made a life member in 1909.41Robert ?Cawsley, Honorary Secretary, Yarra Yarra Rowing Club, letter to John Henry Connell, 27 September 1909, private collection. Moreover, he donated property and, apparently, large sums of money for the public benefit: he gave a valuable block of land in Punt Road to the Prahran City Council for a children’s playground, and it was suspected that it was he who anonymously donated large sums of money to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal Office each year.42See ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15. 

Despite his philanthropy, Connell was a humble man, reluctant to indulge in public congratulation and notorious for avoiding the press. A contemporary account records that ‘apart from those who know him, the general public know little of the quiet, retiring man who has shunned publicity all his life’.43‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. Connell’s desire to escape publicity was reflected in the opening of the Connell Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria, when ceremony was avoided at his express wish. Another example of his diffidence in the face of public attention was his absence from a dinner at which he was to receive a medal from the Society of Artists in Sydney.44See ‘National Gallery Trustees: Mr. John Connell Honored’, Age, Melbourne, 10 November 1925, p. 11. The artist Sydney Ure-Smith commented that he ‘did not at all believe in Mr. Connell’s unavoidable absence. He put it down to an amazing modesty and an intense dislike of being fêted and thanked for anything he had done’.45ibid. 

The Connell Collection at the National Gallery of Victoria 

The Connell Collection was opened to the Melbourne public on 10 September 1914. It was initially exhibited on the first floor of the Museum building, in Barry Hall and in Barry Gallery (the balcony area above Barry Hall).46See Armstrong & Boys, pp. 23, 27; Hall, n.p. The manner in which the Collection was displayed in Barry Hall47While the display of the Collection in Barry Hall has been recorded, little is known about the function of Barry Gallery or about exactly which works from the Collection were shown there. Although Barry Gallery was originally intended to be used for prints from the Collection only ‘until special accommodation could be provided’ (Armstrong & Boys, p. 27), records indicate that by 1918 the function of the Gallery had expanded and it was used for the display of ‘black and white drawings, etchings and a choice collection of old engravings’ (Hall, n.p.). The extent to which it was used to exhibit the Connell Collection after 1918 is not known, though textiles that may have belonged to the Collection were displayed in this area during the 1940s. It is not possible to determine from contemporary records whether any of these items definitely belonged to the Collection. Barry Gallery is mentioned by Hall in 1918 (Hall, n.p.); it is not mentioned, however, in either edition of the Catalogue of the Connell Collection. This may be because the gallery was most probably not used to display the Connell Collection after 1918. is thought to have been decided upon by John Connell and Bernard Hall in conjunction with William Hardy Wilson. Wilson initially proposed that works be hung in a manner evocative of the interior of an eighteenth-century house, and he suggested ‘getting hold of panelling[,] doors, windows, mantels etc. from some of the early buildings in NSW or Tasmania’.48Wilson letter, 22 September 1913. In the event, Wilson’s idea was not implemented, possibly because Barry Hall was architecturally unsuitable or because the Connell Collection spanned a broader period than the eighteenth century. A bay at the east end of Barry Hall, however, was allocated to the display of a Georgian Room, unrelated to the Connell Collection. This ‘room’ was: 

fitted with door and window, mantel, panelling, skirting, and bricks for a fireplace taken from ‘Clarendon’, a homestead built at Richmond, New South Wales, by Lieutenant William Cox, in 1808 … [These fixtures were] presented by Mr. Phillip Charley, Richmond, N.S.W., through Mr. W. Hardy Wilson, who selected the wallpaper and hangings, and supervised the fitting-up of the room.49Armstrong & Boys, pp. 26–7. 

The fact that the Georgian Room was not part of the Connell Collection appears to have been a point of confusion from the mid-1920s, when National Gallery of Victoria postcards, depicting this room, appeared carrying the caption ‘Eighteenth Century Room – Connell Collection’. The misunderstanding continued into the 1930s, when the room was listed under the heading ‘Connell Collection’ in the 1935 edition of the Gallery’s Guide to the Collections.50Guide to the Collections, Melbourne, 1935, p. 8. 

The Connell Collection had inspired such widespread public enthusiasm when first received by the Gallery that in the first instance every item was displayed – in a traditional nineteenth-century hang that saw paintings, prints and drawings interspersed with works in a variety of other media – at the expense of ease of viewing (fig. 3). In the preface to both the 1921 and 1923 editions of the Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, Bernard Hall justified this decision when he wrote: ‘Exigencies of space necessitate overcrowding, and impose a museum-like and monotonous character upon all such exhibitions, which the observer should allow for in making use of them’.51Β. Hall, preface to Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, 6th edn, Melbourne, 1921, n.p.; preface to Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, 7th edn, Melbourne, 1923, n.p.

Furniture in the display was placed in chronological order along the length of the north wall of Barry Hall, beginning with early Victorian, moving through Victorian, Georgian and Queen Anne, and then back to the Restoration period.52See ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection1, p. 10; ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Gift’, Argus, Melbourne, 11 September 1914, p. 10. Oil paintings, watercolours and prints by John Longstaff, Hans Heysen, Frank Brangwyn and others were hung above and between the items of furniture.53See ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection’, p. 10, ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Gift’, p 10; Hall, n.p. Decorative arts and miscellaneous items were displayed in six ebony cases situated against the south 

wall. Two cases contained English china, including eighteenth-century Wedgwood, Crown Derby, Worcester, Mason and Staffordshire.54See ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection’, p. 10. A third case displayed sets of Venetian and Viennese ‘ware’, while a fourth contained French, Dutch and Dresden ‘species’.55ibid. The more exotic Chinese, Japanese and Indian specimens of ‘metal and china workmanship’ were housed in a fifth case, and miscellaneous items, including miniatures, watches, knives and snuffboxes, were exhibited in a case of their own.56ibid. The sequence of cases was broken up by a display of paintings, works on paper and furniture.57ibid.; ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Gift’, p 10.
 

The Connell Collection was identified in Barry Hall by a tablet featuring lettering cut by the English sculptor Eric Gill (fig. 4). This tablet, set into a wall in the display area, was commissioned by the Gallery on the advice of the then Felton Bequest Adviser, Frank Rinder, but was not put in place until 1920.58See Armstrong & Boys, pp. 43–4; ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2; E. R. Gill, Inventory of the Inscriptional Work of Eric Gill, London, 1964, p. 55; Cox, p. 88. 

The display of the Connell Collection did not change significantly for over two decades. The fact that Connell continued to add to his original gift, however, necessitated the rearranging of existing exhibition areas, and the accessing of new areas to accommodate growing displays. Apart from contemporary photographs, the two editions of the Catalogue of the Connell Collection are the only extant records of the location of each work in Barry Hall. The years 1925 and 1937 may therefore be used as benchmarks in monitoring changes to the display. 

By the time the first edition of the Connell Collection catalogue was published in 1925, Connell had added more than one hundred items to the Collection. Further space was required, and the ante-room to Barry Hall was made available for exhibiting etchings, engravings, mezzotints and a lithograph in addition to a Chinese robe, shawl, festival headdress and a sample of embroidered white silk.59See Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 9. Six other works, acquired through the Felton Bequest, were also exhibited in the ante-room. These were: a Chippendale table, a Japanese wood-carving and four Chinese jade pictures.60ibid., p. 5. 

During the period 1918–25, drawings, paintings, armour and furniture were added to the south wall display in Barry Hall, and the content of the exhibition cases was changed. Although the first and second cases still contained English china,61The first case now contained ‘a collection of English china, principally Derby and Worcester’ (Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 11) in addition to examples of Minton, Swansea, Spode, Davenport, Plymouth, Coalport, Leeds, Liverpool, Copeland and Garrett, and Flight, Barr and Barr; the second case contained ‘further specimens of Worcester, examples of Sunderland Lustre, and several varieties of Staffordshire ware, including Wedgwood, Spode and Mason’s Ironstone China’ (Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 16). the third now held Chinese and Japanese works – ‘specimens of 18th and 19th Century Chinese ware, with a little modern Japanese’.62Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 19. The fourth case appears to have been an amalgamation of Venetian and other European works, previously housed separately,63The Venetian and European works included ‘19th Century reproductions of old Venetian glass, specimens of 18th Century Delft ware, examples of Meissen – 18th Century and modern, and a few other pieces of European china’ (Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 22). while the fifth case was used to display miscellaneous items.64These included snuffboxes, tobacco boxes, inkstands, a musical box, an eyeglass, a necklet, various medals, a Chinese puzzle ball, an ivory fan and an elephant-tusk vase; there were also fans and watches, a clock, an incense burner, a pair of ear-cleaners, a pair of card-case covers and a large number of miniatures and drinking glasses (see Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, pp. 25–34). Silver and Sheffield plate were exhibited in the sixth case.65See Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 34. 

The 1937 edition of the Collection catalogue reflects the Gallery’s more streamlined approach to the display, with works being categorised according to medium or period. The landing above the stairs, for example, now also employed as an exhibition area, was used to display eighteenth- and nineteenth-century etchings and engravings, a mezzotint and a wash drawing, while the ante-room displayed works on paper only.66See Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, p. 6. The exhibition cases had also become more specialised and reflected an increased tendency to group works of art according to country of origin. The first case contained the Chinese imperial robe, silk shawl and embroidered silk previously exhibited in the ante-room;67ibid., p. 11. the second held a collection of English china, ‘principally Chelsea, Bow and Derby’.68ibid. This case also contained examples of Plymouth, Coalport, Leeds, Davenport, Rockingham, Minton, Chelsea and Swansea (see Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, pp. 11–15). Most pieces in the third case were examples of Worcester porcelain,69Also in the display were examples of Wedgwood, Staffordshire, Spode and Davenport (see Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, pp. 16–21). while the following case contained ‘specimens of Chinese ware, with a little Japanese’.70Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, p. 21. In the fifth case were European works: ‘19th Century Venetian glass, specimens of 18th Century Delft ware, examples of Dresden – 18th Century and modern, and a few other pieces of European china’.71ibid., p. 25. The sixth case housed miscellaneous items, while an additional, seventh case displayed Connell’s collection of silver and Sheffield plate.72ibid., pp. 28–37. 

The appointment of Daryl Lindsay (1889–1976) as Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1941 marked a new era in the history of the Connell Collection’s display. Lindsay incorporated works from the Collection into small period displays or tableaux containing works from elsewhere in the collection (fig. 5). Lindsay’s connoisseurship and more sophisticated methods of display (fig. 6) also resulted in the removal of inferior works to storage so that others could be seen to better advantage.73See ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. Furthermore, the increased attention given to the decorative arts during the first half of the century allowed Gallery staff to assess more accurately the quality and value of items in the Collection. 

Other parts of the Collection were recategorised according to medium. The walls of the stairway leading to Barry Hall, for example, were used to display French fans from the Louis XIV, XV and XVI periods, while the landing above the stairs was given over to eighteenth-century English and French furniture. This approach is reflected in the format of the Catalogue of the National Gallery of Victoria of 1943. While the 1923 edition lists works according to their location within particular galleries, the 1943 catalogue is divided into five sections: oil paintings, watercolours, miniatures, sculpture and miscellaneous works.74Catalogue of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1943, p. xi.

By 1958, however, it appears that little of the Connell Collection remained on display.75See D. Lawrance, ‘The Silver Collection Redisplayed’, Quarterly Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria, vol. XII, no. 2, 1958, n.p. All the porcelain, the silver and the miscellaneous objects were removed from their cases and replaced with items from the Gallery’s collection of silver. Further, most of the furniture, prints, paintings and armour were now stored behind a partition that had been built to stand in front of the north wall of Barry Hall.76Lane interviews. The outer wall of the partition, which incorporated built-in display cases, was used to exhibit porcelain, and two items of furniture from the Collection were displayed, with other furniture, in the Kent Gallery on the ground floor. 

The National Gallery of Victoria collection was moved from the Museum of Art to its new premises in St Kilda Road in 1968. The new building had been designed 

to accommodate a greatly increased staff, now grouped in seven curatorial departments and a Department of Exhibitions and Display with subdivisions for Glass, Ceramics, Metalwork, Furniture and Textiles coming under the general heading of Decorative Arts.77E. Westbrook, introduction to U. Hoff, The National Gallery of Victoria, London, 1973, p. 17.

The reorganisation of the Gallery into specific departments meant that the Connell Collection could no longer be displayed as a whole. Rather, individual works or groups of works would now be exhibited in the context of other displays. 

Historically, the Connell Collection is among the most influential donations to have been received by the National Gallery of Victoria. It laid a solid grounding in the decorative arts, a grounding upon which the Gallery has been able to build in the intervening years, and it strongly influenced the taste of a whole generation of Melbourne collectors and dealers.78Those believed to have been influenced by the Connell Collection include Daryl Lindsay, Director of the Gallery from 1941 to 1955; Rex Ebbott, collector of glass and honorary consultant to the Gallery between 1941 and 1955; Robert Haines, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery from 1951 to 1960; and Joshua McClelland, a major Melbourne art dealer (Lane interviews). That the Collection was so greatly appreciated and attracted so many visitors from Melbourne and elsewhere during John Connell’s lifetime79Lane interviews. must have been particularly gratifying to this important patron. 

Laurelee MacMahon, Curator of Slides, Department of Fine Arts, University of Melbourne (in 1996).

 

Acknowledgements 

I am grateful to Ms Alison Inglis and to Mr Terence Lane for their helpful comments. Ms Dana Rowan is also to be thanked for her patience and excellent advice. 

 

Notes 

This article is based upon sections of the author’s thesis, John H. Connell: The Man and His Collection, Postgraduate Diploma in Art Curatorial Studies, University of Melbourne, 1994. 

1          ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection’, Age, Melbourne, 11 September 1914, p. 10. 

2          P. McCaughey, foreword to A. Galbally, The Collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1987, p. 7; see also T. Lane, ‘Antiques in Victoria: Collectors and Collections’, in Treasures from Private Collections (exh. cat.), Sotheby’s, Melbourne, 1993, p. 8. 

3          Terence Lane, interviews with the author, Melbourne, 1994; Lane, p. 8. 

4          E. L. Armstrong & R. D. Boys, The Book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1906–1931, Melbourne, 1932, p. 23; see also ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria, vol. 3, no. 3, 1949, p. 2. 

5          The Gallery took possession of more than seven hundred items in February 1914; two more items were received on 4 September 1914. 

6          Although the official opening took place in Buvelot Hall, the Collection itself was displayed in Barry Hall and Barry Gallery (see L B. Hall, ‘The Connell Collection’, Art in Australia, no. 5, 1918, n.p.; Armstrong & Boys, ρ 26, ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2; L. B. Cox, The National Gallery of Victoria 1861 to 1968. A Search for a Collection, Melbourne, [1970], p. 81; Lane, p. 8). 

7          Will of John H. Connell (d. 9/12/1952), 4 April 1952, Public Record Office, Laverton, Victoria, no. 462711. 

8          See The John Η. Connell Collection (sale cat ), Leonard Joel Auctioneers, Melbourne, 25 June 1953. 

9          ibid., cat. nos 16, 50. 

10        ibid., cat. no. 169. 

11        William Connell was born in Dublin in 1827 and Mary Ingall was born in London in 1839. Both emigrated to Australia in 1849 and were married in St Paul’s Church, Melbourne, in 1857. John Connell had an elder brother, Frederick William, a younger brother, Wilfred Bass, and seven sisters: Sophia, Elizabeth Ellen, Sarah Isabella, Winifred, Thyrza Lucy, Dorothea and Ellen Deborah. 

12        Connell family member, interviews with the author, Melbourne, 20 July 1994, 15 August 1994, 14 September 1994. 

13        Keith Murdoch, President, Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, letter to Mrs John H. Connell, 11 September 1944, private collection. 

14        J. Stuart, ‘The Toast to His Victory’, Australian Women’s Weekly, 4 May 1966, p. 14. 

15        Connell’s aunt, Sarah Isabella Cavanagh (née Connell), married Thomas Jackson in 1878; John Connell’s relationship to Henry Young is not known, though it is thought they were blood relations (see ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, Herald, Melbourne, 10 December 1952, p. 1; ‘John Connell Dies at 92: Burial Today’, Sun, Melbourne, 11 December 1952, p. 24; ‘Melbourne Has Lost Its “King of Counter-Lunch”’, Argus, Melbourne, 11 December 1952, p. 5; ‘Obituary: Mr John Connell’, Age, Melbourne, 11 December 1952, p. 2). Connell’s family also appears to have had several other connections with the liquor industry. His maternal grandfather was a distiller in London, and the Baker family similarly had dealings in the English liquor industry, it is thought they were connected with the Tenant family, who were brewers in England (Philip Harris, telephone interview with the author, 20 August 1994). 

16        ‘Melbourne Has Lost Its “King of Counter-Lunch”’, p. 5. 

17        See ‘John Connell Dies at 92’, p. 7. 

18        Lane interviews. 

19        ‘Melbourne Has Lost Its “King of Counter-Lunch”’, p. 5. Connell sold the licence to the Railway Hotel in 1938 but retained the freehold; Matthew Cody, the son of Connell’s close friend Pierce Cody, was subsequently asked to run the business (see ‘Obituary: Mr John Connell’, p. 2; ‘Lunch-King’s Antiques’, Argus, Melbourne, 25 June 1953, p. 4, Stuart, pp. 14–15). 

20        Lane interviews. 

21        See J. A. Kershaw, Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, letter to John Henry Connell, 30 July 1926, private collection; ‘Chloe’s Home up for Sale’, Herald, Melbourne, 24 September 1979, p. 1; K. Dunstan, ‘Chloe – Forever Young (& Jackson’s)’, Age Good Weekend, Melbourne, n.d., pp. 52–4. 

22        See Cox, p. 48; Lane, p. 7. 

23        Foreword to The John H. Connell Collection, n.p. 

24        Connell was appointed a Trustee on 17 February 1922 and retired from this post on 19 March 1945 (see Armstrong & Boys, p. 51). 

25        See ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15. 

26        Connell family member interview, 20 July 1994. 

27        See ‘John Connell Dies at 92’, p. 7. 

28        See ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15. 

29        ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. 

30        Lane interviews. 

31        See Hall, n.p.; ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. 

32        See ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2, ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15; ‘John Connell Dies at 92’, p. 7. 

33        Catalogue of the Connell Collection, Melbourne, 1925; Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 2nd edn, Melbourne, 1937. 

34        See Armstrong & Boys, p. 55. 

35        John Henry Connell, letter to National Gallery of Victoria Trustees, 23 June 1915, private collection, Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, p. 36. 

36        See T. Lane & J. Serle, Australians at Home: A Documentary History of Australian Domestic Interiors from 1788 to 1914, Melbourne, 1990, p. 407. 

37        William Hardy Wilson, letter to W. H. Gill, 22 September 1913, private collection, K. Fahy, C. Simpson & A. Simpson, Nineteenth Century Australian Furniture, Sydney, 1985, p. 10. 

38        Wilson letter, 22 September 1913. For Wilson’s writings on other collections, see W. Hardy Wilson, ‘Collections of Old Furniture, Textiles, Glass, Porcelain, Plate and Objets d’Art in Australia’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. VIII, no. [2], March–April 1911, pp. 229–33; ‘Australian Collections of Old Furniture, Pictures, Textiles, Porcelain, Class, Silver and Objets d’Art: No. 1 – 17th and 18th Century English Furniture in the Collection of the Author’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. VIII, no. 3, May–June 1911, pp. 257–64, ‘Australian Collections of Old Furniture, Pictures, Textiles, Porcelain, Glass, Silver and Objets d’Art: No. 2 – A Century of English Chairs (1660–1670), Examples in the Possession of the Author’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. VIII, no. 4, July–August 1911, pp. 295–300; and his ‘Arrangement of Furnishings and Pictures: Examples in the Home of the Author’, Art and Architecture, Sydney, vol. IX, no. 1, January–February 1912, pp. 412–17. 

39        See Hall, n.p.; Lane, p. 8. 

40        James T. Wares, Secretary, Commercial Travellers Association of Victoria, letter to John Henry Connell, 29 July 1914, private collection; Connell family member interview, 20 July 1994. 

41        Robert ?Cawsley, Honorary Secretary, Yarra Yarra Rowing Club, letter to John Henry Connell, 27 September 1909, private collection. 

42        See ‘Early Associations with Young and Jackson’s’, p. 15. 

43        ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. 

44        See ‘National Gallery Trustees: Mr. John Connell Honored’, Age, Melbourne, 10 November 1925, p. 11. 

45        ibid. 

46        See Armstrong & Boys, pp. 23, 27; Hall, n.p. 

47        While the display of the Collection in Barry Hall has been recorded, little is known about the function of Barry Gallery or about exactly which works from the Collection were shown there. Although Barry Gallery was originally intended to be used for prints from the Collection only ‘until special accommodation could be provided’ (Armstrong & Boys, p. 27), records indicate that by 1918 the function of the Gallery had expanded and it was used for the display of ‘black and white drawings, etchings and a choice collection of old engravings’ (Hall, n.p.). The extent to which it was used to exhibit the Connell Collection after 1918 is not known, though textiles that may have belonged to the Collection were displayed in this area during the 1940s. It is not possible to determine from contemporary records whether any of these items definitely belonged to the Collection. Barry Gallery is mentioned by Hall in 1918 (Hall, n.p.); it is not mentioned, however, in either edition of the Catalogue of the Connell Collection. This may be because the gallery was most probably not used to display the Connell Collection after 1918. 

48        Wilson letter, 22 September 1913. 

49        Armstrong & Boys, pp. 26–7. 

50        Guide to the Collections, Melbourne, 1935, p. 8.

51        Β. Hall, preface to Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, 6th edn, Melbourne, 1921, n.p.; preface to Illustrated Catalogue of the National Gallery, 7th edn, Melbourne, 1923, n.p. 

52        See ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection1, p. 10; ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Gift’, Argus, Melbourne, 11 September 1914, p. 10. 

53        See ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection’, p. 10, ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Gift’, p 10; Hall, n.p. 

54        See ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Collection’, p. 10. 

55        ibid. 

56        ibid. 

57        ibid.; ‘National Gallery: The John Connell Gift’, p 10. 

58        See Armstrong & Boys, pp. 43–4; ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2; E. R. Gill, Inventory of the Inscriptional Work of Eric Gill, London, 1964, p. 55; Cox, p. 88. 

59        See Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 9. 

60        ibid., p. 5. 

61        The first case now contained ‘a collection of English china, principally Derby and Worcester’ (Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 11) in addition to examples of Minton, Swansea, Spode, Davenport, Plymouth, Coalport, Leeds, Liverpool, Copeland and Garrett, and Flight, Barr and Barr; the second case contained ‘further specimens of Worcester, examples of Sunderland Lustre, and several varieties of Staffordshire ware, including Wedgwood, Spode and Mason’s Ironstone China’ (Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 16). 

62        Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 19. 

63        The Venetian and European works included ‘19th Century reproductions of old Venetian glass, specimens of 18th Century Delft ware, examples of Meissen – 18th Century and modern, and a few other pieces of European china’ (Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 22). 

64        These included snuffboxes, tobacco boxes, inkstands, a musical box, an eyeglass, a necklet, various medals, a Chinese puzzle ball, an ivory fan and an elephant-tusk vase; there were also fans and watches, a clock, an incense burner, a pair of ear-cleaners, a pair of card-case covers and a large number of miniatures and drinking glasses (see Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, pp. 25–34). 

65        See Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1925, p. 34. 

66        See Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, p. 6. 

67        ibid., p. 11. 

68        ibid. This case also contained examples of Plymouth, Coalport, Leeds, Davenport, Rockingham, Minton, Chelsea and Swansea (see Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, pp. 11–15). 

69        Also in the display were examples of Wedgwood, Staffordshire, Spode and Davenport (see Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, pp. 16–21). 

70        Catalogue of the Connell Collection, 1937, p. 21. 

71        ibid., p. 25. 

72        ibid., pp. 28–37. 

73        See ‘The Connell Collection’, Quarterly Bulletin, 1949, p. 2. 

74        Catalogue of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1943, p. xi. 

75        See D. Lawrance, ‘The Silver Collection Redisplayed’, Quarterly Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria, vol. XII, no. 2, 1958, n.p. 

76        Lane interviews. 

77        E. Westbrook, introduction to U. Hoff, The National Gallery of Victoria, London, 1973, p. 17. 

78        Those believed to have been influenced by the Connell Collection include Daryl Lindsay, Director of the Gallery from 1941 to 1955; Rex Ebbott, collector of glass and honorary consultant to the Gallery between 1941 and 1955; Robert Haines, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery from 1951 to 1960; and Joshua McClelland, a major Melbourne art dealer (Lane interviews). 

79        Lane interviews.