25 September 2015

New Marianne North donation

Marianne North's grandniece and grandnephews have donated 41 wonderful new paintings for our collection.

By Jonathan Farley

The Marianne North Gallery

Travel albums

Library Art & Archives has recently received a unique donation from Marianne North's grandniece and grandnephews. The gift was presented on 5 August 2015 by her grandnephew John Vaughan and received by the Head of Library Art & Archives, Christopher Mills.

The donation consists of an album containing 41 paintings made by Marianne North during her travels in Sicily, Canada, India, Tenerife and Australia. All are exquisite depictions of their subjects and several appear to be experimental in their technique. Indeed, one painting appears to be so 'experimental' that it might almost come from the beatnik 60s rather than the century before.

Accompanying the album are two specimens collected by Marianne on her travels: an armadillo and a duck-billed platypus.


An unusual conservation challenge 

Although there is no mention of an armadillo in Marianne North's journals, it is possible that the platypus was a tame one which resided at Government House in Tasmania at the time of her visit.

"On that terrace was a fountain in which the L's had kept a tame platypus for some time; but every living creature is ambitious of doing something beyond its powers, and that silly little beast wanted to climb up a stone wall, fell back and broke its spine in the attempt, and that was the end of it." - Marianne North: Recollections of a Happy Life, Vol. 2.

Following recent funding gifts, the Preservation Unit is now recruiting a conservator for a year post to conserve all of the Marianne North material. This will include the archives and the paintings that are held in the collections but which are not part of the Marianne North Gallery itself, which was restored recently with the assistance of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

The recent donations will be added to the new Marianne North Conservation Project, though how to treat an armadillo and a platypus may require a little consideration.

- Jonathan S. Farley ACR -

Senior Conservator

Read & watch