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J.G. Burnell Bequest

In 1967, Monash received its first major bequest of art: a collection of etchings by nineteenth-century British and French Revivalists and ‘Old Masters’ such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck and Francisco Goya, gifted by John Gurner Burnell (1885–1967).

The fifty-nine artworks, spanning the years 1631 to 1929, are a valuable study collection that demonstrates various etching processes—including drypoint, hard and soft ground, aquatint and engraving—and represent the evolving technologies and tastes in printmaking over three centuries. Through a number of important impressions, the collection charts the widespread use of drypoint, the most direct intaglio method, as mastered by Rembrandt (1606–1669), Francis Seymour Haden (1818–1910) and Lionel Lindsay (1874–1961).

Burnell, who was a successful and highly respected engineer and close friend to Monash’s first Vice-Chancellor Sir Louis Matheson, studied at the University of Sydney first in arts but turned to mechanical and electrical engineering. Serving in Egypt, Belgium and France during the First World War kindled Burnell’s interest in medieval architecture and his lifelong appreciation of the evocative mastery of etching. While he bought at least one etching during the War, he acquired most of his prints in the interwar period when etching enjoyed widespread popularity in Australia among both practitioners and collectors.

Burnell received many honours in his profession: the Kernot Memorial Medal for distinguished engineering achievement for the design and testing of pumps and welded pressure-vessels in 1946; the Sir Peter Nicol Russell Medal from the Institution of Engineers in 1951; and an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering bestowed by the University of Melbourne in 1956. Burnell also supported the arts as President of the Castlemaine Art Gallery (1942–56) and as a trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria (1950–56).

Artists represented in the bequest include: Adolphe Appian (France), Charles Henry Baskett (England), Edmund Blampied (Channel Islands), Muirhead Bone (Scotland), Edward Bouverie Hoyton (England), Gerald Brockhurst (England), Henry Stuart Brown (Scotland), Nelson Dawson (England), John C. Goodchild (England/Australia), Francisco Goya (Spain), F.L. Griggs (England), Francis Seymour Haden (England), Albany E. Howarth (England), Maxime Lalanne (France), Alphonse Legros (France), Lionel Lindsay (Australia), James McBey (Scotland), William Manning (England), Charles Meryon (France), Jean-Francois Millet (France), Frank Mura (United States), William Palmer Robins (England), Sydney Ure Smith (England), Anthony van Dyck (Belgium), Adriaen van Ostade (Netherlands), Rembrandt van Rijn (Netherlands), A.C. Webb (United States) and Anders Zorn (Sweden).

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