Many of the artworks and objets d’art from the Wesley College collection are on permanent display across our three metropolitan campuses provide insights into the life and culture of Wesley College.
The stories these artworks and objets d’art tell have as much to do with the people who donated them as with the objects themselves.
LA Adamson, Headmaster from 1902 to 1932, was a devout lover of fine art and objets d’art and placed many in the school for boys and visitors to admire, creating an ambience of cultural refinement. Many of these curios survive today.
The bronze statuette, ‘Winged Victory of Naples,’ has a special place in the history of rowing at Wesley College. In the era of successive victories at the Head of the River between 1902 and 1913, this figure was placed on the head table at what is Wesley College’s longest-running annual dinner, the Boat Race Dinner. The statuette is a reminder to the diners that victory may be fleeting but also that, through the years of defeat, victory may return.
Many artworks on permanent display are closely associated with remembrance of those who served in the First World War. The Venetian well-head now located in front of the St Kilda Road Campus has a simple, but poignant, inscription to former students who served in the First World War.
The historic Venetian well-head commemorating former students who served in the First World War
The four lions that now stand at the entrance to Reception at the St Kilda Road Campus also serve as a memorial to those who died in the First World War. The sculptor, Ettore Cadorin, who had a distinguished career in the United States, drew inspiration from the lions in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. Each lion has a sphere under one paw, possibly a reference to a Chinese myth that the sphere gives the lion his strength and immortality.
One of the four Wesley lions by Ettore Cadorin
When fire at the St Kilda Road Campus in 1989 destroyed much of the Archives, one extraordinary object that survived was Adamson’s great carved sideboard. Believed to have been carved in 1867 by a Flemish artist named Snutzel and supposedly exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in the same year, the fire-damaged sideboard was restored, with conservation funded by a generous former student. Today it graces the Cato Room at the St Kilda Road Campus.
LA Adamson's intricately carved sideboard
The other great treasure in the Cato Room is a bust by Italian sculptor Pietro Calvi of a bearded Otello, circa 1872, in marble and bronze, wearing a burnous and clutching Desdemona’s handkerchief.
Bust of a bearded Otello, by Pietro Calvi
The College continues to acquire pieces for its collections, especially work that has a connection to the school. A stunning painting of Clunes by the distinguished Australian artist, Jeff Makin, was unveiled in 2011 to celebrate the reopening of the newly refurbished former Wesleyan Church in Clunes. The painting, showing Wesley at Clunes on the hill, now hangs in the former church. The Makin family has a strong association with the College as Jeff’s sons, Hugh and James, were both students at the College.
Jeff Makin discusses his painting of Clunes with Dr Helen Drennen, Principal from 2003 to 2018
Wesley’s collection of artworks and objets d’art helps to tell our story and is an important legacy for future generations.
Wesley College welcomes donations of artworks and objets d’art for the art collection as well as archival items that help illustrate the story of the school. The Wesley College Foundation is registered under the Cultural Gifts Program of the Commonwealth Government, so donated items approved under Wesley College Collection Policy conditions and criteria receive a tax deduction to the approved value of the item.
For further information on donations of artworks, objets d’art or archival items or Wesley College Collection Policy conditions and criteria, please contact Wesley College Foundation Executive Director, Jack Moshakis (OW1973), on + 61 3 8102 6385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org