The Russell & Mab Grimwade ‘Miegunyah’ Collection

The Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest is an extensive collection of cultural material from the estate of Sir Russell and Lady Grimwade. A scientist, businessman and philanthropist, Sir Russell (1879-1955) had wide-ranging interests embracing industry, botany and art. In this he was strongly supported by Mab (née Kelly, 1887-1973). Their Collection and their Toorak home ‘Miegunyah’ were bequeathed to the University of Melbourne in Sir Russell’s will of 1949 and presented to the University after Mab’s death in 1972. The Collection comprises works of art of various media, a thousand rare books, historical documents and other memorabilia, and accordingly, is housed at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, the Baillieu Library and University Archives. Together it reflects the Grimwades’ diverse interests, in particular, in Pacific exploration and Australian, especially Melbourne’s, history.

The art, held at the Potter, comprises some 700 items, principally works on paper, including prints, drawings, watercolours and photographs; decorative arts including ceramics, glassware and furniture, and a small collection of oil paintings. The majority of this collection is from the nineteenth century, notably significant watercolours and drawings by Nicholas Chevalier, Louis Buvelot, Henry Burn and Duncan Cooper. Rare and important early prints include those published by Absalom West, Robert Havell and S.T. Gill; these are complemented by illustrated books held in the Baillieu Library’s Sir Russell and Lady Grimwade Collection. Oil paintings make up a small proportion of the Collection and were for personal enjoyment rather than as part of the Grimwade’s Australiana collection. William Strutt’s Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia 1852 (1887) was the only nineteenth-century painting acquired by the Grimwade’s. It remains the most important early Australian painting in the University of Melbourne Art Collection.

The Sir Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund was established in 1990 from the Trust Fund established from the proceeds of the sale of ‘Miegunyah’ by the University, and directed to provide support for those areas that were central to the donors’ wishes. With these funds, during the 1990s, the Collection was augmented by the acquisition of nineteenth-century watercolours, drawings, photographs, and the oil painting Kangaroo hunt (1873) by James Alfred Turner. Of particular note, sixteen sketches and oil studies by William Strutt were purchased to complement Strutt’s Bushrangers. The Miegunyah Art Acquisition Fund was re-established in 2016. The first acquisition with these renewed funds was an important early drawing of an Eora warrior by the French artist Nicolas-Martin Petit, purchased at auction in November 2017. Francesco Bartolozzi’s etching The death of Cook (1784) was among a group of early prints acquired in 2018. Works purchased by this means bear the credit line: The Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund, distinguishing them from The Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest.