John Twycross 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Collection




The John Twycross 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Collection comprises approximately 200 objects bought by wealthy wool merchant John Twycross at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The collection includes international decorative arts and paintings from China, Japan, England, Europe and India, and a few ethnographic objects from Asia and the Pacific.

A remarkable snapshot of late 19th century taste and style, the John Twycross 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Collection includes examples of decorative, functional, and novelty objects and works of art exhibited in the Austro-Hungarian, British, German, Italian, Japanese, British Indian, and Minor Courts. John 'Top Hat' Twycross immigrated to Australia from Wokingham, Berkshire, England in December 1853. In the 1870s he built 'Emmarine', a substantial mansion with an art wing on Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick. His increasing interest in Melbourne's art scene saw him elected to the council of the Art Union of Victoria in 1875. It is probably from this time onwards that he began to acquire paintings and drawings by local artists, as well as to build up a collection of decorative arts, fine furniture and statutory. It is easy to imagine John, his wife Charlotte (nee Burrell of the McRae homestead) and his children perusing the various courts and stands at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition and carefully selecting beautiful objects to decorate their home and enrich their art collection. Shortly after John Twycross' death in 1889, much of his collection was sold at two auctions held by Fraser ; Co in October. It was advertised with some confidence that his collection of art works was 'well known by all connoisseurs and art patrons', with every lot being guaranteed to have been selected by Twycross, 'a well-known expert'. The objects that did not sell, and a number that were not put up for auction, have remained in the Twycross family since, and have been curated by the women of the family for four generations. The collection was donated to Museum Victoria by John Twycross' great grandson, Dr Will Twycross. The Twycross family has donated the collection to Museum Victoria as the custodian of the Royal Exhibition Building (REB), the site of Victoria's two World Fairs. The John Twycross 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Collection of more than 150 artefacts is not merely a wonderful collection of decorative arts; it is also significant because it operates as a primary source to the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The contemporary viewer is offered a rare insight into Melbourne's first World Fair. We are shown the exhibits and given a vivid indication of fashionable Australian and European 19th century taste.

Please direct access requests via Museum Victoria's Discovery Centre


1880-1880; Ceramics; Chinese Art; Cloisonné Metalwork; Decorative arts; Earthenware; Exhibitions: Melbourne International, 1880-1881; Glassware; Greek Mythology; Horology; Italian Art; Ivory; Japanese Art; Lacquerware; Porcelain; Prints; Royal Exhibition Building; Tortoiseshell; Weapons

Coverage Spatial

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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