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The Australian National University

Painting War: Memory making and Australia’s official war art scheme, 1916 – 1922

Date and time

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 16:15 - 17:30


McDonald Room, Menzies Library

The Australian War Memorial’s collection of official paintings has played an important role in articulating and perpetuating memories of the Great War for almost a century.

Yet despite this, there has been little analysis of how or by whom the collection was created. My thesis seeks to address this gap by exploring the individuals, or ‘agents of memory’, who managed the production of the official war paintings. It traces the art scheme from its inception in London in 1916 to its exhibition in Melbourne in 1922, examining the manner in which these individuals, pre-eminently, Charles Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent and later official historian, Henry Smart, Publicity Officer at the Australian High Commission in London, and John Treloar, Officer in Charge of the Australian War Records Section and later Director of the Australian War Memorial, were responsible for shaping the character of the collection. Taking the art scheme as a case study through which to consider the process of memory construction, my thesis explores the politics at play in the commemoration of the Great War in Australia.

In this paper, which forms the pre-submission presentation for my PhD candidature, I will present an overview of my research into Australia’s first official art scheme, exploring the questions, themes and arguments of my thesis, Painting War: Memory making and Australia’s official war art scheme, 1916 – 1922.

Meggie Hutchison is a PhD candidate in the School of History at the Australian National University. She recently co-convened the conference ‘Art, War and Truth’, which drew together her research interests in war commemoration and memory. She received a Herrenhausen Symposium Grant and Russell F. Weigley Award in 2013 and was awarded an International Council for Canadian Studies Student Grant in 2012.

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