Professor Ian McLean receives Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History

Professor Ian McLean has been awarded the Hugh Ramsay Chair of Australian Art History, a new chair established after a major gift from the Ramsey family to the Faculty in 2014.

Self-portrait in white jacket, 1901, Hugh Ramsay.
Self-portrait in white jacket, 1901, Hugh Ramsay.

Professor Ian McLean was formerly the Senior Research Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Wollongong and adjunct professor at the University of Western Australia. He received his MA (First Class Honours) and his PhD from the University of Melbourne. He also completed a Diploma in Fine Arts (Painting) at the Victorian College of the Arts. He was offered and accepted the role in February and is due to start at the University in mid-2017.

Professor McLean has published extensively on the subject of Australian art, particularly Indigenous and contemporary art. His books include Indigenous Archives: The Making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art, with Darren Jorgensen (2017); Rattling Spears: A History of Indigenous Australian Art (2016); Double Desire: Transculturation and Indigenous Art (2014); How Aborigines Invented the Idea of Contemporary Art (2011); White Aborigines Identity Politics in Australian Art (1998); and The Art of Gordon Bennett, with a chapter by Gordon Bennett (1996).

The Dean of Arts at the University of Melbourne, Professor Mark Considine, welcomed the new appointment. ‘I am delighted to welcome a distinguished scholar such as Professor Ian McLean to our Faculty. Ian’s excellence and reputation in Indigenous Art History places us at the forefront of teaching and research in this field, and will inspire the next generation of art history scholars.’

Professor Peter Otto from the School of Culture and Communication also welcomed Professor McLean. ‘He is a superb addition to the Art History Program, to Indigenous Studies, and to our School as a whole.’

The Hugh Ramsay Chair was established following a major endowment from Faculty of Arts alumna Patricia Fullerton, the grand-niece of Australian artist Hugh Ramsay (1877-1906), and other members of the Ramsay family.

Hugh Ramsay achieved much in his short life: in the 1890s he was acclaimed as the most brilliant student at the Melbourne Gallery School; later, in Paris, he had four works accepted for the New Salon – an exceptional honour for a 24-year-old Australian. Salon success led to commissions, including the portrait of Nellie Melba in London, unfortunately left unfinished after his diagnosis with tuberculosis.

Patricia Fullerton studied Fine Arts and French at the University of Melbourne and published the biography Hugh Ramsay: His Life and Work in 1988. She retains a strongrelationship with the Faculty and believes studying the arts, whether music, literature or painting, can broaden our understanding of our culture and national identity. She was honoured as one of the University’s most significant benefactors on the donor wall located in the heart of the Parkville campus.

Patricia and her family are delighted at the appointment. “Ever since Hugh Ramsay’s death at 28 in 1906, his family have tried to keep his talent and his memory alive. As one of four generations to have benefitted from an education at the University of Melbourne, I felt it appropriate to establish something to commemorate Hugh Ramsay and the teaching of Australian art history here.

The Chair will provide opportunities for research into Australian art, particularly Indigenous art, an area sadly in decline in many university programs.

Learn more about Hugh Ramsay here and about the gift here.