australian colonial history
meg dillon
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History
Frieze in Hepburn Springs Cottage

Master Printmakers of 1920s & 1930s

Victor Zelman

Training & Influences as an Artist

Victor trained at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, where he would have been introduced to both soft ground etching and the plein air style of small paintings that became his trademark and sold well. Melbourne University Archives, Victorian National Gallery Art School digitised photos. Ref 2007 0060 0019. A large group of students for 1895 shows an 18 year old Victor amongst the students. This appears to be the only photo of Victor as an adult that has survived. He was a student at the National Gallery School in 1895 when he was 18 years old although it’s not certain whether he was a day or evening student, nor is it known when he started or finished the course. A traditional style of painting continued to be taught at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne until the 1940s, firmly entrenched there by the views of Gallery directors who believed that craftsmanship and beauty were two of the key attributes that the Gallery School should teach. Victor’s landscapes suggest that his painting in the 1920s and 1930s was strongly influenced by the paintings of Frederick McCubbin, a significant Australian Impressionist painter, who held various teaching and adminitration positions at the National Gallery School from 1886 to 1917. It is possible that Victor received some training in the processes of printing and etching from the Melbourne printmaker John Mather, a Scot, who studied at the Institute of Fine Arts Glasgow and at the Edinburgh National Gallery School before arriving in Melbourne in 1878. Mather also taught at the Melbourne National Gallery School and gave private lessons. He may also have had some contact with John Shirlow who attended the National Gallery Art School as an evening student between 1890-1895 and produced the first Australian portfolio of etchings of local scenes in 1904. After finishing his training, Victor exhibited frequently with other groups of artists in the general exhibitions organised by the various artists’ societies in Melbourne including The Victorian Artists’ Society, The Melbourne Artists’ Society, The Fine Art Society, The Painters and Etchers’ Society, The New Gallery and submitted work in various municipal art competitions and exhibitions. His work was also exhibited in Sydney Australia in 1923 and in the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 – 1925 in Wembley, England. He appears to have been a tireless worker and earned his living from his art practice and to a lesser extent various musical recitals in small chamber orchestras playing the viola and violin. His income from artworks was substantial. His exhibition of April 1925 at the Fine Arts Society’s Gallery would have grossed just over £435 and with two or more such solo exhibitions a year and entries into group exhibitions, he could support a very comfortable life style. Although Victor remained true to landscape painting, he did have some contact with some of the local change makers in art, not only through the diverse range of artists who exhibited at the same galleries as he did, but also with George Bell, one of the first who started the movement towards European Modernism in Victoria. Bell took violin lessons from both Victor and his brother Alberto. Bell returned to Victoria in 1920 after studying contemporary art in London where post impressionism and cubism came to his notice. Bell opened his School of Creative Art in 1932 as a direct response to several important exhibitions of Modernism in Melbourne in that year: the Herald’s ground breaking travelling exhibition of works imported from Europe and America sponsored by Keith Murdoch; and the first exhibition of the newly formed Contemporary Group. While there is no evidence that Victor attended any classes at Bell’s school, he could not have been immune to these exhibitions and the sensation they caused in Melbourne. Bell was later instrumental in the formation of the Contemporary Art Society (Melbourne). He organized a meeting of 170 local artists at the Victorian Artists Society’s rooms in July 1938, where a constitution was adopted and the C.A.S. officially founded. This challenge to the teaching of the National Gallery School had been building throughout the 1930s and had been fostered by discussions and meetings between artists at the many casual meeting places around Melbourne’s arts precinct in Little Collins, Collins, Bourke and Swanston Streets. Café Petrushka, Risties Coffee House, the Mitre Tavern and the Swanston Family Hotel were all popular venues for artists to meet, as well as in the many cheap studios that artists rented in this area. Most particularly, the Leonardo Art Shop in Little Collins Street, opened by an Italian Gino Nibbi in 1930, provided the first books of modern art reproductions for local artists to study and was a key meeting place. Victor’s connections to the Italian community are likely to have led him there. As well, both Victor and Nibbi’s wife Elvira taught at various times at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. The Melbourne arts community was a small one and connections and friendships wove through its fabric. The increasing influence of contemporary art in the 1930s and the bitter accusations and arguments between supporters of both styles of painting, along with the start of World War Two may have influenced Victor to leave Melbourne and permanently shift to Hepburn Springs in the early 1940s.
Career > Career >
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History
australian colonial history
history of australia

Master Printmakers of

1920s & 1930s

Victor Zelman

Training & Influences as an

Artist

Victor trained at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, where he would have been introduced to both soft ground etching and the plein air style of small paintings that became his trademark and sold well. Melbourne University Archives, Victorian National Gallery Art School digitised photos. Ref 2007 0060 0019. A large group of students for 1895 shows an 18 year old Victor amongst the students. This appears to be the only photo of Victor as an adult that has survived. He was a student at the National Gallery School in 1895 when he was 18 years old although it’s not certain whether he was a day or evening student, nor is it known when he started or finished the course. A traditional style of painting continued to be taught at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne until the 1940s, firmly entrenched there by the views of Gallery directors who believed that craftsmanship and beauty were two of the key attributes that the Gallery School should teach. Victor’s landscapes suggest that his painting in the 1920s and 1930s was strongly influenced by the paintings of Frederick McCubbin, a significant Australian Impressionist painter, who held various teaching and adminitration positions at the National Gallery School from 1886 to 1917. It is possible that Victor received some training in the processes of printing and etching from the Melbourne printmaker John Mather, a Scot, who studied at the Institute of Fine Arts Glasgow and at the Edinburgh National Gallery School before arriving in Melbourne in 1878. Mather also taught at the Melbourne National Gallery School and gave private lessons. He may also have had some contact with John Shirlow who attended the National Gallery Art School as an evening student between 1890-1895 and produced the first Australian portfolio of etchings of local scenes in 1904. After finishing his training, Victor exhibited frequently with other groups of artists in the general exhibitions organised by the various artists’ societies in Melbourne including The Victorian Artists’ Society, The Melbourne Artists’ Society, The Fine Art Society, The Painters and Etchers’ Society, The New Gallery and submitted work in various municipal art competitions and exhibitions. His work was also exhibited in Sydney Australia in 1923 and in the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 – 1925 in Wembley, England. He appears to have been a tireless worker and earned his living from his art practice and to a lesser extent various musical recitals in small chamber orchestras playing the viola and violin. His income from artworks was substantial. His exhibition of April 1925 at the Fine Arts Society’s Gallery would have grossed just over £435 and with two or more such solo exhibitions a year and entries into group exhibitions, he could support a very comfortable life style. Although Victor remained true to landscape painting, he did have some contact with some of the local change makers in art, not only through the diverse range of artists who exhibited at the same galleries as he did, but also with George Bell, one of the first who started the movement towards European Modernism in Victoria. Bell took violin lessons from both Victor and his brother Alberto. Bell returned to Victoria in 1920 after studying contemporary art in London where post impressionism and cubism came to his notice. Bell opened his School of Creative Art in 1932 as a direct response to several important exhibitions of Modernism in Melbourne in that year: the Herald’s ground breaking travelling exhibition of works imported from Europe and America sponsored by Keith Murdoch; and the first exhibition of the newly formed Contemporary Group. While there is no evidence that Victor attended any classes at Bell’s school, he could not have been immune to these exhibitions and the sensation they caused in Melbourne. Bell was later instrumental in the formation of the Contemporary Art Society (Melbourne). He organized a meeting of 170 local artists at the Victorian Artists Society’s rooms in July 1938, where a constitution was adopted and the C.A.S. officially founded. This challenge to the teaching of the National Gallery School had been building throughout the 1930s and had been fostered by discussions and meetings between artists at the many casual meeting places around Melbourne’s arts precinct in Little Collins, Collins, Bourke and Swanston Streets. Café Petrushka, Risties Coffee House, the Mitre Tavern and the Swanston Family Hotel were all popular venues for artists to meet, as well as in the many cheap studios that artists rented in this area. Most particularly, the Leonardo Art Shop in Little Collins Street, opened by an Italian Gino Nibbi in 1930, provided the first books of modern art reproductions for local artists to study and was a key meeting place. Victor’s connections to the Italian community are likely to have led him there. As well, both Victor and Nibbi’s wife Elvira taught at various times at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. The Melbourne arts community was a small one and connections and friendships wove through its fabric. The increasing influence of contemporary art in the 1930s and the bitter accusations and arguments between supporters of both styles of painting, along with the start of World War Two may have influenced Victor to leave Melbourne and permanently shift to Hepburn Springs in the early 1940s.