Pre-Felton works documented as purchased on Hall’s advice
* Barnard [Drawing – subject unknown] {1903} Loc? [DR]
* Boyd (A.) Waiting for the tide 1895 {1895} Loc? [PA]
Davies (D.) Moonrise, Templestowe 1894 {1895} NGV [PA]
Du Maurier Speeches to be lived down 1889 {1892} NGV [DR]
Du Maurier A Connoisseur 1891 {1892} NGV [DR]
Duveneck Riva degli Schiavoni no.1 1880 {1899} NGV [ET]
Francis Lord Melbourne 1837 {1901} SLV [SC]
Furniss An Expert {1902} NGV [DR]
Haydon Marcus Curtius 1843 {1897} NGV [PA]
Hollar Sleeping Huntress {1900} NGV [PR]
Humphrey Under a Summer Sun 1895 {1895} NGV [PA]
Keene Management 1868 {1892} NGV [DR]
Lindsay (N.) My Ancestors 1903 {1904} NGV [DR]
Louriero Vision of St Stanislaus 1899 {1901} NGV [PA]
Martini after Ramberg The Royal Academy 1787 {1900} NGV [PR]
Mather Autumn in the Fitzroy Gardens 1894 {1895} NGV [PA]
May (P.) The Diamond Doctor 1888 {1903} SLV [DR]
May (P.) Dishing his Enemies 1888 {1903} SLV [DR]
May (P.) Jumps and Jim Jams 1888 {1903} SLV [DR]
May (P.) Loch and Key 1888 {1903} NGV [DR]
May (P.) The Mother of Civilization 1888 {1903} SLV [DR]
May (P.) The Parkes Appropriation 1888 {1903} SLV [DR]
May (P.) Lord Carrington and New South Wales {1903} SLV [DR]
May (P.) The Dane 1890 {1903} SLV [DR]
McCubbin A Winter Evening 1897 {1900} NGV [PA]
Muller Virgin & Child 1593 {1900} NGV [PR]
Paterson Fernshaw 1900 {1900} NGV [PA]
* Pontius after van Dyck Dead Christ{1900} Loc? [PR]
* Sadeler after Heintz Diana surprised in the Bath {1899} Loc? [PR]
Scheltema Driving in the Cows {1895} NGV [PA]
Solomon The Leaves of Memory 1890 {1892} NGV [DR]
Strang The Hangman’s Daughter 1894 {1899} NGV [ET]
Strang Rudyard Kipling {1900} NGV [ET]
Streeton ‘The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might’ 1896 {1896} NGV [PA]
Taylor Ghee Donnelly Creek, Healesville 1895 {1895} NGV [PA]
Tucker Maid of all work {1900} NGV [PA]
Varley Dolgelly near Barmouth 1818 {1902} NGV [WT]
Varley Moel Heboeg {1902} NGV [WT]
Waite Coaxing Ways {1895} NGV [PA]
Ward (J.) Sheep {1903} NGV [PA]
Withers Tranquil Winter 1895 {1895} NGV [PA]

Hall’s appointment as NGV Director in 1892, following an earlier career as a tonalist painter and a foundation member of the New English Art Club (1886), opened a significant new chapter in the history of the gallery, one that would continue, as it turned out, for the next 43 years.

Perhaps inevitably, as Hall’s incumbency as both NGV Director and Director of the Art School continued on and on into the 1920s and 30s, he came to be regarded by a younger generation as a fusty and obstructive presence, and there does appear to be some basis for that view as he aged in the job. However, he remained a committed and effective contributor to the development of the Melbourne collection right through to his death – the key late example being his passionate advocacy for the purchase of Rembrandt’s brilliant early panel Two Old Men Disputing in 1934-35, a topic I have addressed in detail elsewhere: see Gregory & Zdanowicz (1988).

And the evidence clearly points to his significant role in the development of the collection from 1892 to 1904, when he was still in his 30s and 40s – witness the number of works bought on his direct advice during that period (listed above). From the outset (see e.g. the painting by Fantin-Latour, his earliest  recommendation), Hall also showed himself adept at choosing works of quality, often for bargain prices: see e.g. Francis Lord Melbourne 1837 {1901} SLV [SC].

Typically, too, he was discriminating in his judgments and advice, and critical of some aspects of the collection he inherited in 1892: see for instance his comments on Beyle Last Resting Place of Coco {1881} NGV [PA]. His emphasis on producing a comprehensive new catalogue shortly after he took after the position (NGV 1894) is clear evidence of this, as are many of the comments and judgements contained in that volume, including significant reassessments of a number of works.

Within the framework of a generally traditional outlook, he was also keen to improve the quality of the collection, and determined to add significant contemporary works, including Australian examples – a fact that should be emphasized in light of later claims that he discriminated against local artists, and favoured tonal painting like his own. Particular attention should be drawn to the series of works bought on his recommendation from the Victorian Artists’ Society exhibitions in 1894-5: see Boyd (A.), Davies, Humphrey, Mather, McCubbin (a work exchanged for an earlier painting selected in 1895), Scheltema, Taylor Ghee, Waite and Withers, as listed above.

His eloquent recommendation of Streeton ‘The Purple Noon’s Transparent Might’ 1896 {1896} NGV [PA] demonstrates particularly clearly his genuine enthusiasm, soon after arriving in Australia, for the works of the younger generation of local painters: refer entry for extended quote. Against the grain of conservative opinion, he recommended purchase of Bertram Mackennal‘s Circe in the year it was first made and exhibited (1893), although the work was not acquired eventually until 1910; and, in 1903 and 1907, he advised on the purchase of two controversial drawings by Norman Lindsay (for details, see Lindsay (N.) My Ancestors 1903 {1904} NGV [DR] ). He also had a particular interest in the graphic art of the period, and made a special trip to Sydney in 1903 to purchase a group of 8 Bulletin caricatures by Phil May, who had just died, aged 39.

Last but not least, he also selected works from Alfred Felton’s private collection in 1904, as provided in Felton’s will (for details, see linked entry); and also made the first direct recommendations for purchases under the terms of the Felton Bequest. Camille Pissarro’s Boulevard Montmartre (1897), included in Hall’s first batch of Felton Bequest recommendations in 1905 (along with other significant works by Rodin and Turner), was a brilliant acquisition, instantly demonstrating the possibility of future greatness for the NGV collection.

Hall’s personality seems hard to gauge, given that he is described variously as shy, irascible, adventurous and conservative! At least in his early years in Melbourne, he had a reputation for being sociable and worldly, making contact with various significant local figures including the Lindsays, Felton, and Marshall Hall (the controversial Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne). He also had a devoted following among a number of his students at the NGV art school – although both his art and his teaching came in for considerable criticism after his death.

Subsequent research and analysis has provided a clearer picture. Leonard Cox’s 1970 history of the NGV gave extensive and largely sympathetic attention to Hall’s long tenure as director and his role as an advisor; Ann Galbally wrote a considered appraisal for the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 1983; and a recent biography by Gwen Rankin provides further details, and extended, if largely adulatory analysis, focussing particularly on his work as a painter and teacher.


See now Cox NGV (1970), passim; the biography of Hall by Ann Galbally in ADB vol.9 (1983):; and Gwen Rankin L.Bernard Hall, Sydney, 2013. For Hall’s initial Felton Bequest recommendations, see in particular the detailed analysis by Poynter Mr Felton’s Bequests (2003/2008), pp.259ff. See also Ann Galbally, “Shackled and Set Free: Art, Music and Theatre in Melbourne in the 1890s,” in Thérèse Radic & Suzanne Robinson (ed.), Marshall-Hall’s Melbourne, North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly, 2012, pp.3-19 

For Hall’s role in the purchase of Rembrandt’s Two Old Men Disputing 1628 (NGV, Felton Bequest 1934), see my discussion in Gregory & Zdanowicz Rembrandt in the Collections of the NGV (1988), esp.pp.131-5