Visions of Colonial Grandeur

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.