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Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859–1935)

by Ann E. Galbally

This article was published:

Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859-1935), by unknown photographer

Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859-1935), by unknown photographer

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H4699

Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859-1935), artist, teacher and gallery director, was born on 28 December 1859 at Garston, Liverpool, England, son of Lindsay Hall, a broker of Scottish descent, and his wife Emily Margaret, née Brugheer Herrmann. Bernard was brought up in an affluent, well-educated, cultured circle. He was educated at Kensington Grammar School, London, and Cheltenham College.

Hall was very musical but decided upon art as a career. In 1874 he began four years at the School of Design (Royal College of Art), South Kensington, under the French-trained Edward Poynter who stressed drawing skills, especially nude studies. Hall's choice of continental postgraduate study after he had gained his teacher's certificate reflected his respect for technical skill. Throughout his life he was to prize craftsmanship, technical understanding and manual skill very highly, believing that individuality could never be taught but that, if it were already there, it would develop naturally in an artist's work. In Antwerp he studied under the Belgian master Charles Verlat, renowned for his history paintings, portraits and animal studies. Verlat was a leader in the revival of interest in the graphic arts in Antwerp and this may have been where Hall gained his strong interest in graphic art. In Munich he studied under Professor Ludwig von Loefftz, a history and landscape artist; and at this period the famous Karl von Piloty was director of the Munich academy. A studentship under von Piloty, a remarkable teacher, forms a link between Hall and his predecessor at the National Gallery of Victoria, George Frederick Folingsby.

In 1882 Hall returned to London where he worked as a painter and black and white artist for the illustrated press. In 1883 his first picture was accepted by the Royal Academy where he subsequently had works hung several times. Others, mainly portrait and genre studies, were exhibited with the Society of British Artists. He was a foundation member of the New English Art Club, formed in 1886, but seems not to have kept up the association.

On Folingsby's death in 1891 Hall was appointed director of the National Gallery of Victoria and head of the Art School. He arrived in Melbourne early in 1892.

Hall was also expected 'to advise the Trustees in regard to the purchase of works of Art'. This proved a thorny task. No guide-lines were set and although his first recommendations were accepted Hall was increasingly frustrated by the lack of an overall purchasing policy for the gallery and by the prevailing low aesthetic standards. In 1900 he submitted a report to the trustees on a future purchasing policy. Although this was initially received with hostility it was a major factor in changing the trustees' attitude; in 1905 he was appointed first Felton Bequest buyer and was sent to Europe.

Hall brought high standards of aesthetic merit and craftsmanship to the Melbourne artistic community. One of his most famous phrases was that there was no immorality in art other than faulty or bad technique—a belief that places him firmly in the context of aesthetic London of the 1880s and 1890s. He was strong minded and sure of his own judgement. Many of his purchases for the Felton Bequest such as the J. M. W. Turner 'Okehampton', Rodin's 'Minerve sans Casque' and bust of Jean Paul Laurens, and Pissarro's 'Boulevard Montmartre', all purchased on the 1905 trip, and the Rembrandt 'Two Philosophers' which he acquired in 1934, are among the great treasures of the National Gallery of Victoria.

As a teacher Hall left unchanged much of what Folingsby had initiated. He continued to teach the Munich system of highly structured pictures conceived tonally, working outwards from a dark background to a middle ground and then setting silvery lights and reflected highlights at crucial points on the plastic objects carefully built up within the illusory space. Not all his students agreed with his teaching, especially towards the end of his career, but important artists trained under him, including James Quinn, Hugh Ramsay, W. B. McInnes, Charles Wheeler and Margaret Preston. His own painting typifies his system and pays particular homage to Vermeer, Velasquez and Whistler. His preferred subjects were nudes and still life. Although his duties at the gallery left him little time, he did exhibit at times with the Victorian Artists' Society and hold one-man exhibitions which were respectfully, if not rapturously, received. He was described as dark, thin and reticent, always faultlessly dressed. Arnold Shore remembered him as 'upright in carriage, straight-laced, eagle-eyed, with hair cut “en brosse”'; his somewhat cold and reserved manner concealed a shy, sensitive nature.

On 18 December 1894 at St George's Church of England, Malvern, Hall had married Elsinore Mary Shuter, who died in 1901 leaving a son. On 16 April 1912 at Malvern he married Harriet Grace Thomson, a 27-year-old nurse. In February 1934 he went to London to take up the post of buyer of works of art for the gallery, but died on 14 February 1935, survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.

Principal works by Hall in public collections include 'The Model', 'Coyness', 'The Marble Staircase', 'An Interior' (Art Gallery of New South Wales); 'Sleep', 'Processional', 'A Studio Party', 'The Giant Crab' (National Gallery of Victoria); and 'After Dinner', 'Still Life' (Art Gallery of South Australia).

Select Bibliography

  • U. Hoff, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Lond, 1973)
  • E. D. Lindsay, The Felton Bequest, an Historical Record 1904-1959 (Melb, 1963)
  • L. B. Cox, The Natonal Gallery of Victoria, 1861 to 1968 (Melb, 1970)
  • Lone Hand, 1 Apr 1908, p 613
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 Mar 1892, 23 Feb 1935
  • Herald (Melbourne), 29 June 1945
  • Age (Melbourne), 28 Oct 1961
  • H. L. Saunders, Bernard Hall and His Influence on the National Gallery of Victoria and Associated School until 1917 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Melbourne, 1979)
  • Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, minute book and reports (held by Administrative Section, State Library of Victoria)
  • Directors' Reports, 1908-35 (files of National Gallery of Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria)
  • Bernard Hall papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Ann E. Galbally, 'Hall, Lindsay Bernard (1859–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 12 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859-1935), by unknown photographer

Lindsay Bernard Hall (1859-1935), by unknown photographer

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H4699

Life Summary [details]


28 December, 1859
Garston, Lancashire, England


14 February, 1935 (aged 75)

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