Gatekeeper of memory : The Australian War Memorial and Charles Bryant's HMAS Australia on the Way to Her Doom

Book chapter


Hutchison, Margaret. (2020). Gatekeeper of memory : The Australian War Memorial and Charles Bryant's HMAS Australia on the Way to Her Doom. In In Hutchison, Margaret and Trout, Steven (Ed.). Portraits of remembrance : Painting, memory, and the First World War pp. 181-196 The University of Alabama Press.
AuthorsHutchison, Margaret
EditorsHutchison, Margaret and Trout, Steven
Abstract

[Excerpt] The Australian War Memorial (hereafter Memorial) has a large collection of canvases of the First World War. Produced under Australia’s first official war art program, these paintings have played an important role over the past century in articulating and shaping collective memories of the conflict. Yet, the collecting policies by which these artworks were acquired have received little attention. Memory making is as much about forgetting as it is about remembering, and examining the ways in which the images were commissioned or purchased for the Memorial provides an insight into the construction of an official memory of the First World War in Australia, revealing not only what was commemorated but also what was not.

In exploring this process, it is important, as Jay Winter reminds us, to consider “who is doing the work of remembrance” and thereby who is responsible for shaping the memory of the collective.2 In the case of Australia, it was Charles Bean, official war correspondent and historian, and John Treloar, head of the Australian War Records Section and later director of the Memorial, who were key figures in shaping a national memory of the First World War. These “agents of memory” were driven by a desire to commemorate Australian achievements on the battlefield through amassing a collection of artifacts, textual documents, photographs, film, and art.3 While during the war painters commissioned under the official art scheme were important agents in determining the scope and content of the resulting collection, Bean, Treloar, and other members of the Memorial’s Art Committee increasingly dominated the production of the official paintings in the postwar years. They assumed responsibility for acquiring artworks and, despite having no professional artistic training, appointed official artists, guided the choice of subjects for commissions, and selected acquisitions for display in the museum. Their decisions profoundly influenced the character of the national collection of paintings and the way in which the Great War was, and continues to be, visually represented in Australia.

Page range181-196
Year2020
Book titlePortraits of remembrance : Painting, memory, and the First World War
PublisherThe University of Alabama Press
Place of publicationTuscaloosa
ISBN9780817320508
9780817392819
0817392815
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print2020
Publication process dates
Deposited27 Sep 2021
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