Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Franz Adolf Philipp (1914–1970)

by Jaynie Anderson

This article was published:

Franz Adolf Philipp (1914-1970), art historian, was born on 29 March 1914 in Vienna, son of Jewish parents Edmund Philipp, a Czech-born businessman, and his wife Karoline, née Selinko, who came from Hungary. With his two brothers and sister, Franz attended the Bundesgymnasium at Doebling. In 1933 he entered the University of Vienna where he studied art history under Julius von Schlosser. Philipp began his doctoral thesis on 'The Mannerist Portrait in Northern Italy' in 1937, but was interned at Dachau, Germany, on 15 November 1938. He escaped to England in June 1939 and worked as an agricultural labourer in Yorkshire before being detained in 1940 and transported to Australia as an enemy alien. Arriving in the Dunera on 6 September, he was interned at Hay, New South Wales, and at Tatura and Shepparton, Victoria. While at Hay he taught art history to fellow refugees. Released in February 1942, he enlisted in the Australian Military Forces on 8 April and served with a succession of employment companies, mainly in Melbourne, until being discharged on 15 February 1946. Fifteen weeks later he was naturalized.

Having enrolled in 1943 at the University of Melbourne (B.A. Hons, 1946), Philipp specialized in Italian Renaissance history under Professor Max Crawford. He graduated top of his class, winning a Dwight prize, and in 1947 was appointed a senior tutor in Crawford's department. On 13 March 1948 at the office of the government statist, Melbourne, he married June Margaret Rowley, a 22-year-old teacher who later lectured in history. Next year he was made an assistant-lecturer in history and fine arts.

In 1950 Philipp became a lecturer in the department of fine arts, where he was to be promoted senior lecturer (1954) and reader (1964). For those who could cope with his erudition and meet his exacting standards, he was an inspiring and generous teacher who treated his students as his equals. He dressed formally, smoked heavily, and was reasonably tall and thin; his hair was dark and curly, and his thick glasses framed vibrant eyes which lit up when a crucial discovery was made. Arthur Boyd remembered him as 'a gentle, thoughtful soul'. In 1955-56 Philipp was a senior research fellow at the Warburg Institute, London. In 1963 he was awarded a Carnegie Corporation travelling fellowship to the United States of America.

Philipp was best known for contributing to Renaissance scholarship through his teaching, yet his major work was on an Australian painter, Arthur Boyd, whom he believed the most important artist of his generation. In 1947 he had published an article in Present Opinion demonstrating Boyd's appropriation of Mannerist motifs from Breughel and other sixteenth-century artists, and seeing his style as a metaphor for the postwar years. Philipp's Arthur Boyd (London, 1967) set new critical standards for scholarship in Australian art history. He wrote for Meanjin, Historical Studies and the bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria; with June Stewart, he edited a volume of essays in honour of Sir Daryl Lindsay, published in Melbourne in 1964. While on sabbatical leave in London, Philipp died of myocardial infarction on 30 May 1970 at Hampstead. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • K. Bittman (ed), Strauss to Matilda (Syd, 1988)
  • University of Melbourne Gazette, July 1970
  • Australian Journal of Art, 3, 1983
  • Art and Australia, Dec 1970, Winter, 1993
  • naturalisation file, A435, item 1945/4/1955 (National Archives of Australia)
  • Philipp papers (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • information from Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jaynie Anderson, 'Philipp, Franz Adolf (1914–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 March, 1914
Vienna, Austria


30 May, 1970 (aged 56)
London, Middlesex, England

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