Where to Begin: Writing a History of Australian Art

Free Public Lecture

Where to Begin: Writing a History of Australian Art

Histories of Australian art generally begin with natural history drawings by artists on Cook’s brief visit to a few sites on the eastern coastline of Australia during 1770 and/or the first decade of the penal colony of NSW, and not the much more impressive Ice-Age rock art in the north of the continent, or as Fred McCubbin had hoped, with the art of his Impressionist mates. In examining why this is this case, this lecture seeks to understand what is required of national art histories and in particular, what Bernard Smith called ‘a national tradition in Australian art’.

Professor Ian McLean is Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne. He has published extensively on Australian art and particularly Indigenous art.

Presented as part of the 2018 Faculty of Arts Dean’s Lecture Series: Celebrating the Impact of Giving

In 2018, thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Faculty of Arts welcomes six newly appointed Professorial Chairs, reaffirming our Faculty’s commitment to excellence in teaching and research. As Chairs, these academics will make significant contributions to their disciplines, enriching these specialist fields for the benefit of our students and the broader community for years to come.

The Faculty of Arts strives to ensure that talented students of all backgrounds have access to the outstanding scholarly expertise and leadership that these new appointments represent. The Faculty of Arts 110 Scholarship is an access and equity scholarship fund that supports students who struggle to afford a university education or are hampered by circumstances beyond their control. Every gift counts – if you’re interested in learning more, please follow the link on this page.

To celebrate the transformative impact of philanthropic giving for future generations of students, join us for this lecture series to hear our new Chairs give talks on their areas of research expertise and teaching.


  • Professor Ian McLean
    Professor Ian McLean, Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History