2015 Semester 2
MHST6903 Managing Collections and Heritage Sites
Unit Coordinator: Dr Helena Robinson
Research Project: Object Report of a drawing by Russell Drysdale with regard
to acquisition by the AGNSW.
By Antony Skinner St ID 19844664
Table of Contents
Fig.1: Page 1.
Fig.2: Page 10.
Fig.3: Page 10.
Title Page: Page 1.
Table of Contents: Page 2.
1. Introduction to Object Report: Page 3.
2. Description of the Object: Pages 3-4.
3. Provenance & History of the Object: Pages 4-5.
4. Condition Reporting: Pages 5-6.
5. AGNSW Collection Policy: Pages 6-7.
6. Assessment of Significance: Pages 7-9.
7. Conclusion: Page 9.
Images: Page 10.
Condition Report 7.10.15: Pages 11-14.
Bibliography: Pages 15-16.
1. Introduction to Object Report
This report will examine one of four original artworks by the artist Russell Drysdale
gifted to my grandfather, Clement Clarton during their friendship and whether it is
suitable for acquisition by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). Firstly,
the report will give a description of the object (Fig.1), in accordance with the
AGNSW categories of information listed for the collection online. Secondly, trace the
history and provenance of the object, vital to prove its authenticity and valid
ownership. Thirdly, summarise guidelines to condition reporting and complete a
report using Te Papas template. Fourthly, provide an overview of the acquisition
policy of the AGNSW relevant to the artwork. Finally, a significance assessment of
the object to determine whether it is suitable for acquisition by the AGNSW.
2. Description of the Object
Mattassa briefly states how classification is needed by museums for recording
different types of information or categories of data on objects for their collections.1
The CIDOC Information Categories, titled International Guidelines for Museum
Object Information published in 1995, clearly states its purpose in its title and
thoroughly documents the categories of information for all the processes of an
objects life in an institution and also the requirements of recording that information
or data. Although it is possibly due for review, given that it is now over 20 years old.
For the purposes of this report the types of information recorded will be taken from
categories of information used online to describe artworks in the AGNSW
collections.2 Object details include:
Title Untitled, (portrait of a stockman)
Date Undated, likely post-1960.
Artist Russell Drysdale, England, Australia
7 Feb 1912 29 Jun 1981
1 Matassa, Freda. Documentation, Museum Collections Management: A Handbook. London: Facet publishing, 2011, pp.78-79. 2Drysdale, Russell, Stockman, Collection, AGNSW, http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/9325/, (Accessed 6.10.15).
Place of Production Australia
Media Category Drawing
Materials Used Brown ink and brown wash on parchment paper
Dimensions Mount: W144mm H220mm Image: W134mm H200mm
Signature & date Russell Drysdale bottom right / For Clem bottom left
Collection Area Australian Art
Period 20th century
Credit (Purchase, Donation, or Bequest)
Accession number Temporary IRN
Location Not on display
Object description, includes the material, and subject:
The subject is a portrait of a stockman, perhaps Aboriginal, but it is difficult to
determine. It shows the stockman with a slouch hat, shirt and neck-scarf from the
shoulders up. It is signed on the bottom right or proper left by the artist and dedicated
to my grandfather on the proper right. The paper is camel coloured parchment paper
on a floating mount of dark brown paper. The figure is drawn in brown pen ink and
coloured in brown wash (Fig.1).
3. Provenance & History of the Object
The object was a gift from the artist to my grandfather from the dedication on the
bottom proper right (left). Unfortunately the work is undated, but it is likely to have
been created after the early 1960s. There are three other original works from Drysdale
that were in my grandfathers possession, also all undated (two are shown in Figs.2-3,
page 10), as well as13 Christmas cards and one letter dated 1980, the year before
Drysdale died. The Christmas cards are all marked from Drysdales property at
Bouddi Farm. It is possible that the cards date from 1967 or earlier to 1980. It is
recorded that Drysdale and his wife rented a friends house in Double Bay in 1964.3
My grandfather was the manager of a shop called The Household Supply P/L from
the later 1940s or early 1950s until his retirement in the mid-1980s (?) and one of
Drysdales Christmas cards postmarked 1978 is sent to the address of the shop: 394
3 Klepac, Lou, Russell Drysdale, Murdoch Books, Sydney, 1983, p. 167
New South Head Road, Double Bay. So it is possible they first met at the shop in
1964. Unfortunately, all the original parties have died. I remember seeing three of the
artworks (Figs.1-3) framed in my grandparents house in Chatswood (with other
paintings) when my family used to visit them every weekend until I was in my early
twenties. My grandfather bequeathed his estate to my mother as his only child when
he died in 1994. They were then hung in my parents house. After my mothers death
in 2012 her estate went to my father and he is currently the legal owner of the
artworks, which are currently in the possession of my eldest brother. ICOM Code of
Ethics for Museums, states that a museum needs to be satisfied that valid title exists
before acquiring an object, and legal title alone is not necessarily valid title.4 Valid
title requires indisputable right to ownership of property.5 Under ICOM the AGNSW
is required to conduct provenance checks and due diligence to ensure the object has
not been illegally obtained, so a full history of the item is necessary.6 From the
object(s) passing from Drysdale to my grandfather and so forth the provenance is
unbroken and it is clear that my father has legal and valid title.
4. Condition Reporting
Demeroukas identifies two types of condition reports for objects: one that is used by
either a registrar, curator or collections manager as a collections management tool to
record detailed information on the objects and the second used by a conservator to
determine any damage and subsequent strategies for object treatment.7 Matassa
provides a useful list when condition reporting is required, namely: from acquisition,
to loans, to moves, exhibitions, insurance assessment, to accident, and deaccession.8
Demeroukas article describes a conservators condition report to assess damage and
determine action. It considers whether damage is historical or contemporary and if it
is due to an inherent fault or inherent vice, biological damage, physical damage, or
chemical damage.9 Damage information should include: types, extent, location, form,
dates, reasons; while damage itself can be described in terms of texture, colour, shape,
4 ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, ICOM, Paris, 2013, p.3 5 Ibid. p.16 6 Ibid. p. 3 7 Demeroukas, M., Condition Reporting. In Buck, R.A., Allman Gilmore, J., (eds.), The New Museum Registration Methods. American Association of Museums, 1998, p. 53. 8 Matassa, Freda. Documentation, p. 86. 9 Demeroukas, M., Condition Reporting, p. 54.
odour, or other physical properties.10 For location: use either the zone or grid system
with, eg proper left = viewers right; or the matrix system using x and y axes or plot
damage on Mylar overlay on photos of objects. In describing location use: direction,
object side (obverse/reverse or recto (front)/ verso (back)), and range.11 In extent use
degrees of severity. Demeroukas also provides a useful glossary of terms to describe
types of damage.12 AICCM online has useful guides prepared by the Heritage
Collections Council on all aspects of condition reporting and collection care, although
the guides were published in 1998 and could need review in light of changes by some
museums to best practice. Other resources are also available via AICCMs website,
such are their useful Visual Glossary.13
For the purpose of this object report a condition report at time of acquisition is
appropriate, as well as information on damage to the object. Therefore a condition
report template used by Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand) will be used, which is
useful as it includes significance assessment and recommendations.14 Please see
Condition Report dated 7.10.15 on pages 11-14 for: object details; damage; storage
and display options; treatment; and recommendations.
5. AGNSW Collection Policy
The gallery unveiled a new strategic vision on 6 March 2013, labelled Sydney
Modern, which is predominately about structural expansion and recognises that the
current building is insufficient to exhibit the gallerys collections, inhibits temporary
exhibitions from abroad, and prevents expansion of the collect