This issue of the Art Bulletin of Victoria is published in honour of Dr Ursula Hoff, who has over the years made such a considerable contribution to art scholarship and to the art museum profession in Australia.
Dr Ursula Hoff, O.A., O.B.E., D.Phil. (Hamburg), D.Litt. (Honoris causa) (Monash), D.Litt. (Honoris causa) (Melbourne), Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, was educated at the Universities of Hamburg, Munich and London. She came to the National Gallery of Victoria through the perceptiveness of Sir Daryl Lindsay, as Assistant Keeper in 1943. In 1956 she was appointed Curator of Prints and Drawings and in 1968 became Assistant Director. After her retirement in 1973 she was made a Trustee of the Gallery, and then in 1975 was appointed the London Adviser to the Felton Bequest, a position she held until 1984.
During her years with the Gallery Dr Hoff has been responsible for many major acquisitions, but perhaps her greatest coup as Felton Adviser was to secure the splendid group of Indian paintings for the collection.
The bibliography of her publications which appears at the end of this issue testifies to her wide-ranging interests in both European and Australian art, in early and in contemporary areas. Her catalogue of the painting and sculpture collections up to 1800 in this Gallery remains an exemplar for all curators. In the National Gallery of Victoria she has been most closely associated with the Department of Prints and Drawings, where over twenty-five years she built up a collection of international repute, setting standards in scholarship and publication which continue to be models. From 1959 until 1973, as editor of the Art Bulletin of Victoria, she quickly transformed it from a six-page quarterly brochure into a journal which addressed a wide range of art historical issues associated with the collection.
Her influence, however, has not been confined to the world of the art museum, for she has been actively involved in teaching since 1948 when she began to lecture in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne – the first woman academic in that department – and where from 1973 to 1975 she was Senior Associate. On her return to Melbourne she renewed this association with the University and continues to give Rembrandt seminars for fourth-year students, as well as giving some lectures.
Her personal dedication has been an inspiration to the many curators she has trained at the National Gallery of Victoria and to those graduates she has taught. Some glimpses of the person we know are found in the articles by Dr William Heckscher and James Mollison: the training which encouraged the practice of persistent enquiry, the discipline, and her great generosity to, and understanding of young people. But we would do her less than justice not to mention too her humour and the liveliness and keen spirit of curiosity that illuminates everything she undertakes.
This festschrift then is presented as a token of the esteem and the deep affection in which Dr Ursula Hoff is held by her associates and her many friends, and by this institution.
Sonia Dean, Editor (in 1988).