La Trobe University art collections

Collections Significance Assessment

As stipulated in the LTU Art Strategy (July 2016), the La Trobe Art Institute (LAI) committed to undertake a review of collections management and development (page 4), which included an investigation into the significance of the cultural holdings of the University. In 2016-17 the LAI undertook the first Significance Assessment of the cultural collections (the Collections) of La Trobe University. The project encompassed the Collections recognised to be under the ownership of the University and the custodianship of the LAI, and used recognised industry methodologies to assess these holdings. There are three core results achieved from the process:

  • Identification and explanation of the significant history and worth of the Collections
  • Identification of existing areas of risk to the Collection
  • Recommendations to ensure the continuing integrity of the Collections, including rectification of identified issues.

This is the first instance of a Significance Assessment being undertaken on the Collections of La Trobe University. The report confirms that La Trobe University possesses collections of substantial merit; holdings worthy of any institution in the country.

Significance Assessment Report [PDF 7.8MB]

Significance Assessment summary [PDF 95KB]

Image: Leonard French, Australia 1928 – 2017, The Legend of Sinbad the Sailor 1956, duco and enamel on board, 1 panel of 7, Donated under the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program by Mr Ion Nicolades 1999, La Trobe University Art Collection

The La Trobe University Art Collection began in 1966, before construction of the first buildings commenced at the site of the University’s major campus at Bundoora. Recognising the importance of an art collection within an educational environment, the University’s Master Architect, Dr Roy Simpson, AO, incorporated the installation and display of artworks into his overall vision for La Trobe. Together with Mr Frank Barnes, the University’s first Business Manager, and the generosity of individual benefactors, Dr Simpson initiated the commissioning of paintings by Gareth Jones-Roberts, Leonard Lloyd Annois and Charles William Bush to establish the Art Collection.

Major sculptural works, such as Allen David’s monumental glass screen that graces the main entrance to the University Library, were also included in the original design. The further installation of sculpture in the grounds and paintings throughout the buildings were proposed in the original Master Plan, and were made possible with funds raised through the 1976 Retirement Appeal for the inaugural Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Myers.

Today the La Trobe University Art Collection is considered a major public art collection, comprising over 2,000 postwar and contemporary Australian artworks. The collection covers most media and periods of Australian art. It includes the largest holding of works by the Australian Surrealist Bernard Boles, expatriate artist Allen David and the Etta Hirsh Ceramics Collection which consists of over 300 pieces.

In addition to an active acquisition program, artworks have been acquired through an artist in residence program and sponsorship of public art prizes, reinforcing the University’s commitment to the study, patronage and advancement of the visual arts.

Public accessibility to the Collections remains a priority, with many of the works displayed across the University’s metropolitan and regional campuses, included in touring exhibitions and exhibitions held at other venues.

Image: Fred (Frederick Ronald) Williams, Australia 1927 – 1982,Scrub, Lysterfield, 1967, oil on canvas, 86.2 x 96.5 cm, Gift of the Williams Family in Memory of Jenny Wilkinson 1987, La Trobe University Art Collection.

Artists A-Z

Dr Geoff Raby AO acquired his collection over the course of three decades, from his first posting in Beijing as First Secretary, Head of the Economics Division at the Australian Embassy in 1986 to his term as Australian Abassador to 2011 and beyond. Raby immersed himself in the burgeoning art scene, and actively sought out the work being created in Beijing and throughout China during this period.

The collection is representative of contemporary art practice in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, and features many noted artists across 174 works. The themes of social realism, political satire, western influence, humour, individual liberty, identity, traditionalism and nationalism are all explored in this collection, with representation of various groups including the Cynical Realists, Political Pop, and the New Literati. It holds significance as both a contemporary fine art collection and a resource for international social commentary and associated research and teaching, including comparative cultural studies, social history, and Asian studies.

The Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art highlights works by more than seventy artists, including Ah Xian, An Kun, Chen Man, Chen Wenling, Feng Ling, Gonkar Gyatso, Guan Wei, Guo Jian, Laurens Tan, Li Jin, Liu Zhuoquan, Luo Brothers, Shen Jaiwei, Shen Shaomin, Shi Jianmin, Tan Yifeng, Wang Yawei, Wang Zhiyuan, Wei Ping, Xiao Lu, Xu Zhongmin, Yang Qian, and Zhao Gang.

The first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, Dr Raby has a long association with the University, obtaining his Bec (Hons), MEc, and PhD at La Trobe.

AhXian Stop lowres

Image: Ah Xian, Stop (Ting) c1985, from the Pay Attention to Security series, oil on canvas, 74.5 x 76 cm. Geoff Raby Collection of Chinese Art, La Trobe University.

The Ethnographic Collection comprises mainly of gifts from generous donors of artefacts and paintings collected from Papua New Guinea and Australia, plus items collected on field trips by academics.

The collection consists of over three hundred objects including stone tools and carvings, Aboriginal barks, war shields and ceremonial dress, masks and headwear.

The records of this collection will not be made available online until appropriate cultural research has been undertaken with the relevant communities of these holdings.

Unknown, Australia, Bima Husband, Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory, nd, wood, natural earth pigments, La Trobe University, Ethnographic Collection

Image: Unknown, Australia, Bima Husband, Tiwi Islands, Northern Territory, nd, wood, natural earth pigments, La Trobe University, Ethnographic Collection

Fred Courtis, then Head of Art Education at the Bendigo Teachers' College, commenced this collection of Australian works of art in 1958.The first works acquired for the collection were Arthur Boyd's Grampians Landscape and Len Annois' Templestowe Landscape. Intended as a valuable teaching resource, the collection was developed to foster a national identity through the appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts.

Artists now represented in the collection include Sir Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Sir William Dargie, Leonard French and George Johnson.

Known as the FM Courtis Collection, the 350 plus artworks are displayed primarily in the Education Building of the University’s Bendigo campus. An important resource for Bendigo, it provides the opportunity for students to have close and continued contact with quality artworks, thus creating an enriched environment for their learning and broader personal development.

For any collection enquiries please contact:

Image: George Johnson, New Zealand b.1926, arr. Australia 1953, Canto 1965, oil, mixed media on board, 29.3 x 28.0 cm, F.M. Courtis Collection. La Trobe University, Bendigo

A D (Dale) Trendall was one of the greatest historians of Greek art of the twentieth century. He was the world authority on the red-figured vases produced in the Greek colonies and native towns of South Italy and Sicily during the Classical period (5th and 4th centuries).

The Trendall Collection of Antiquities includes fine examples of complete vessels, fragments and objects reflective of Professor Trendall’s research interests.

Professor Trendall believed that Australian scholars had made, and could continue to make, a significant contribution to our knowledge of the colonial Greeks in South Italy. To this end, he bequeathed, in addition to the antiquities, his vast archive of over 40,000 photographs of South Italian red-figure vases and his extraordinary personal library of books and journals on Classical civilisation. This donation formed the basis of the A.D. Trendall Research Centre.

For further information regarding the Centre contact: Dr Ian McPhee on (03) 9479 2845 or

Image: La Trobe Painter, Corinth (Greece), Corinthian Aryballos c620–590 BCE, terracotta, Gift to La Trobe University by AD Trendall under the Australian Government Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme 1995, La Trobe University, AD Trendall Research Centre Collection

Emeritus Professor Stewart E. Fraser (1929-2001) was born and spent much of his childhood in Tianjin, China. He was educated at the Universities of Melbourne, Oxford, Stanford, Colorado and London. In 1976, with Professor Ronald Goldman, they established the then innovative School of Education at La Trobe University. Breaking with the tradition of organising the School in terms of disciplines, they structured it in ‘centres’, according to the research interests of the teaching staff.

Professor Fraser was committed to building strong connections with Asia, particularly with China and Vietnam, well before these countries began opening up to the West. His interest in public health issues led him to begin collecting posters, intrigued with the poster as a medium of communication.In 1976 he published the text 100 Great Chinese Posters, one of the earliest publications on the area.

The Stewart E. Fraser Poster Collection is one of the largest of its kind. It contains close to 1,000 posters, predominately from China, as well as examples from Russia and Vietnam.

Image: Ou Yang, We are the new generation of Young Pioneers, 1980, Offset lithograph, 53.0 x 76.7cm, Stewart E. Fraser Poster Collection, La Trobe University

The Larundel Collection features more than 1400 artworks created by the patients of the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital during the period 1987-1997, comprised predominantly of works on paper (along with a small number of paintings, and collaborative works created on bedsheets).

The population at Larundel included both long-term patients and those who were hospitalised for shorter periods. Larundel Psychiatric Hospital was a large inpatient unit located in extensive parklands in the northern suburbs, now part of La Trobe University’s Melbourne Campus at Bundoora. The hospital’s Art Access Studio was established with funding from the Australia Council and the then Department of Health via NEMPS (North East Metropolitan Psychiatric Services) in 1987, and the program operated in various forms until institutional care of patients was replaced by community-based care.

The Art Studio at Larundel was unique in the clinical environment in that it focused on art rather than illness and employed artists to deliver programs rather than clinicians or therapists. The works were created as a vehicle for individual artistic expression, rather than as a tool for therapeutic and/or diagnostic methodologies. The body of work preserved in the Larundel Collection would be considered to predominantly be of the ‘outsider’ tradition, while individual pieces do indicate evidence of more formal, or specialised skills.

Within the University community, particularly interdisciplinary research and teaching groups including Psychology, Public Health, Art Therapy, Education, and the Creative Arts, the Larundel Collection will be a valuable ongoing resource for staff and students within this cluster.

Image: Unknown Artist, Untitled, (nd), acrylic paint on paper (detail). La Trobe University, Larundel Collection (LTULAR904)