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Arnold Joseph Victor Shore (1897–1963)

by R. Dedman

This article was published:

Arnold Joseph Victor Shore (1897-1963), artist and critic, was born on 5 May 1897 at Windsor, Melbourne, youngest of seven children of John Shore, coachsmith, and his wife Harriett Sarah, née McDonough. Leaving Prahran West State School aged 12 he joined Brooks, Robinson & Co. Ltd, a Melbourne firm of glass merchants, where he worked for more than twenty years, principally as a designer of stained glass. Also working at Brooks, Robinson was the artist William Frater, who became a lifelong friend.

Shore attended in 1912-17 the evening drawing class at the National Gallery school where he was instructed by Frederick McCubbin. He joined the Victorian Artists' Society in 1917, but next year followed Max Meldrum in resigning. Rejoining the society in 1949, he was president for 1960 and 1961, and was awarded the society's medal of honour.

From 1917 Shore attended Meldrum's classes and was strongly influenced by that artist's tonal methods. After the school closed in 1923, Shore joined the Twenty Melbourne Painters with whom he exhibited regularly for many years. From 1924 his work increasingly showed the influence of Post-Impressionist and contemporary European artists. During the 1920s Shore and Frater (and their associates Horace Brandt and Isabel Tweddle) were the only Melbourne artists to display these influences in their work, and Shore's August 1929 one-man exhibition at the Athenaeum Gallery can reasonably be claimed to be the first modernist exhibition in Melbourne. These influences in Shore's work could have come only from reproductions in European books and magazines which he regularly studied in the Public Library of Victoria; he never left Australia, and thus saw very little original European work.

In 1932 Shore and George Bell opened the Bell-Shore school of painting, then the only Melbourne school purporting to teach modernist principles. Many painters who later achieved distinction passed through the school, but Bell's influence on them was stronger than Shore's. The partnership was dissolved in 1936.

During the 1930s Shore's reputation grew steadily. His second one-man exhibition was staged at Sydney's Macquarie Galleries in March 1937, and over the next decade he held six more one-man exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney. By 1940 he had won several important art prizes. The self-portrait awarded the 1938 Crouch prize now hangs in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

After the death of his widowed mother in 1938, Shore sold the Windsor house in which he had always lived, and moved to Mount Macedon for eight years. From the flowerpieces on which he had concentrated, his interest now swung to landscape. At Macedon he developed a richly textural style of portraying the bush which was to form the basis of all his subsequent work.

He spent most of 1947 in Sydney. On return to Melbourne he was appointed guide-lecturer at the National Gallery of Victoria, and in 1949 he became art critic for the Argus. On 22 February 1950, at Malvern Presbyterian Church, he married Agnes Vivien Scott. They moved to Hawthorn where Shore lived until his death.

Shore painted very little from 1950 until 1957, when the Argus closed. Appointed art critic of the Age, he resigned from his post at the gallery to devote more time to painting. The last six years of his life were his most productive. He died at Hawthorn of coronary vascular disease on 22 May 1963 and was cremated. His wife and son survived him. Shore was tall but lightly built. In later years his angular face carried a moustache and horn-rimmed glasses, and his greying hair was always carefully brushed.

Shore has traditionally been seen as a pioneer modernist. Throughout the 1920s he and Frater defied hostile critics to present Post-Impressionist-influenced work to an unresponsive public, and may thereby have advanced Melbourne's belated acceptance of modernism. However, Shore's works from the Macedon period and from his last years are his most original, and have contributed directly to the development of a recognizably Australian view of the landscape.

He wrote a brief account of his life and philosophy of art, Forty Years Seek and Find (1957), a monograph on Tom Roberts and numerous newspaper articles. His work is represented in the National Gallery of Australia and in all State and many provincial galleries.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Hetherington, Australian Painters (Melb, 1963)
  • B. Smith, Australian Painting 1788-1970 (Melb, 1971)
  • Meanjin Quarterly, 9, no 1, 1950
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 May 1963
  • R. Dedman, The Development of the Art of Arnold Shore (Ph.D., University of Melbourne, 1984)
  • Shore letters (State Library of Victoria).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. Dedman, 'Shore, Arnold Joseph Victor (1897–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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