Visions of Colonial Grandeur

Dutch oil painting - 'Roses', Still Life, by Geraldine Jacoba Van De Sande Bakhuyzen, circa 1880.

When the Melbourne International Exhibition opened at the beginning of October 1880, it showcased assorted wonders of a richness never before seen in Melbourne. The incredible array included products, machinery, ethnographic items and fine and decorative arts from around the globe.

For John Twycross, a wealthy Melbourne merchant, tanner and fellmonger, the event was an unmissable opportunity.

Since the late 1860s, Twycross had built up a collection of paintings, and taken an interest in the promotion of art in Melbourne. As the collection grew, so too did his palatial house on Glen Huntly Road, Emmarine, to which he added an ‘art wing’ to accommodate his growing collection.

Although much of this collection was sold at auction following Twycross’ death in 1889, a significant number of items were retained by the family. Over three generations, these pieces were passed down through the family, each generation actively engaging with the collection. Children would play with the smaller pieces, while large items decorated the walls and shelves around the family's home.

At the end of 2009, the family donated this incredible collection to Museum Victoria. It offers a fascinating insight into aesthetic tastes and collecting in Melbourne at the end of the nineteenth century.

Portrait of John Twycross from the Twycross family album, John Twycross, Melbourne, circa 1880's.

The Collectors

Over four generations, the Twycross family has treasured and valued the collection.

The German court, published in the Illustrated Australian News, 15 September, 1888.

The Courts

The 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition saw exhibitors from around the world show their wares in elaborate displays.

Will Twycross and his mother Mary, 2008, looking at an album of photographs surrounded by objects purchased by Will's great grandfather, John Twycross, at Melbourne's International Exhibitions.

The Curators

Generations of Twycross descendants cared for the collection.

Join the mailing list and get the latest from our Museums direct to your inbox.

Share your thoughts to WIN

We'd love to hear about your experience with our website. Our survey takes less than 10 minutes and entries go in a draw to win a $100 gift voucher at our online store!