Pre-Felton works commissioned by/bought on Tulk’s advice:
Beechey Portrait of a Lady {1865} NGV [PA] (then thought to be by an unknown painter)
Duckett Design for the Seal of the Melbourne Public Library {1868} Loc? [DR]

Tulk (1810-73), who arrived in Australia from England in 1854, aged 32, was the first librarian of the Public Library of Victoria (1856-73), and a significant participant in the early development of the institution, working particularly closely with Redmond Barry.

Leonard Cox (1970) emphasizes that Tulk, a scholar and a linguist, was also a devotee of the arts, and was closely involved with the establishment of Melbourne’s art collection from the outset. He was one of the original Commissioners of Fine Art appointed in October 1863, and was directly responsible for several other acquisitions, listed above.

Cox discusses at some length an 1865 episode in which Tulk, then in England, enthusiastically advised that the collection of the Villa Albani in Rome was for sale, and suggested that a sum of some £20,000 (no small amount at the time) would secure at least part of it for Melbourne. Barry replied that government funding would not allow any such purchase, and the idea lapsed. The story illuminates the limitations (both financial and aesthetic) applying to the Melbourne collection during its early decades, although, as Cox notes, just how extraordinary an opportunity this was may be debatable.

Tulk’s portrait, showing him at the age of about 30, was presented to the Melbourne collection by his widow in 1878: see Lindo Augustus Henry Tulk 1852 {1978} SLV [PA].

After his death, his several successors as Librarian showed far less interest in the library’s art collections, according to Cox. Mr Tulk’s name is probably most familiar to Melburnians now for the cafe of that name, located at the north-west corner of the State Library building.


For Tulk, see (biography by C.A.McCallum, published in ADB vol.6, 1976). Cox, NGV (1970), pp.8ff., devotes considerable attention to Tulk’s role in the early development of the Melbourne gallery and its collections

For the Villa Albani episode, see Cox, pp.16-18 (quoting from the correspondence between Tulk and Barry. For the significance of the Villa Albani and its collections, see alsoHaskell & Penny, Taste and the Antique (1981): refer index