Royal Exhibition Building

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Royal Exhibition Building

The Royal Exhibition Building is one of the world's oldest remaining exhibition pavilions. Gloriously restored and still used for exhibitions, it was the first building in Australia to achieve a World Heritage listing.

Huntsman on the Hill

Author
by Ben Thomas
Publish date
9 February 2012
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Comments (9)

Ben is an assistant curator currently researching the collections of wealthy Melbourne wool merchant and art collector, John Twycross, for an upcoming book and online exhibition. On the weekends, he likes to wander through grand gardens and restore his 1920s State Savings Bank bungalow home.

Returning to Melbourne following an impromptu drive up Mount Macedon, I stopped at Forest Glade, one of the mountain's well-known private gardens that is open to the public. Barely had I gone a few steps through the garden's cast iron gates when I recognised a very familiar sculptural group. I rushed forward and had my suspicions confirmed.

Alfred Jacquemart’s Huntsman and Dogs Alfred Jacquemart’s Huntsman and Dogs, cast by Val d’Osne c.1879, in the Forest Glade private gardens on Mount Macedon. The cast was included in the company’s exhibits at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.
Image: B. Thomas
Source: B. Thomas
 

Huntsman and Dogs, also known as Hunter and Hounds or by its French title, Le chaussuer et les chiens, was originally produced by the noted French sculptor, Henri Alfred Marie Jacquemart (1824-96), often known as Alfred Jacquemart, famed for his realistic representations of animal figures. He studied painting and sculpture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and was a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon from 1847. His reputation as one of France's leading monumental sculptors was recognised in 1870 when he was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, the country's highest decoration.

Among his many monumental works, Jacquemart also produced a number of sculptures for commercial production, which were cast by the French foundries of Val d'Osne in 'imitation bronze'; a technique of casting in iron that was then coated with a thin surface of copper through electrolysis. Over time, the aging copper developed a green patina giving the appearance of a genuine bronze casting.

Detail of the base of statue Detail of the base of Huntsman and Dogs.
Image: B. Thomas
Source: B. Thomas
 

Val d'Osne exhibited Huntsman and Dogs at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition and the following year at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition where it was mounted on a stone plinth at the front of the eastern forecourt to the Exhibition Buildings, at the edge of Nicholson Street. Val d'Osne was awarded a silver First Order of Merit for their castings at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition.

display of decorative castings in the eastern forecourt of the Exhibition Buildings during the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Val d’Osne’s display of decorative castings in the eastern forecourt of the Exhibition Buildings during the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, with Jacquemart’s Huntsman and Dogs in the foreground of the Nicholson Street entrance.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

One cast of Huntsman and Dogs was purchased by the New South Wales government at the conclusion of the Melbourne Exhibition in 1881 for £180; almost $13,000 in today's terms. It was mounted in the gardens surrounding Sydney's exhibition building, the Garden Palace, but was damaged when the Palace burnt down in 1882. It was restored in September 2001 and is now situated in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Huntsman and Dogs in the Forest Glade gardens apparently remained installed at the Exhibition Building, but – much like its Sydney counterpart – was badly damaged when the Aquarium situated in the building’s eastern annexe was destroyed in a fire in 1953. Forest Glade’s present owners recount that the sculpture languished for a time at the back of a nursery, until being bought from a Richmond-based art auctioneer after the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires. It now finds a fitting home, nestled amongst its garden bed of maples, greeting visitors to these wonderful gardens.

Motorclassica

Author
by Natasha D
Publish date
2 November 2011
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Comments (4)

Natasha works in public relations for IMAX Melbourne and the Royal Exhibition Building.

If you are a car enthusiast, a historian or somebody who takes interest in the evolution of popular culture, you would have found something of interest at Motorclassica, the motor vehicle exhibition held at the Royal Exhibition Building from 21 to 23 October.

The exhibition featured more than 150 veteran, vintage and classic motor vehicles worth more than $100 million. Eighty-six years after the Motor Show first opened at the Royal Exhibition Building, Motorclassica brings an amazing collection of vehicles that are a step back in time.

But for me, the most enjoyable thing about Motorclassica was the story attached to every vehicle brought in for display – some of them outright intriguing. This shiny red 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet is the only one of its kind in Australia and has an interesting history: it was originally owned by a prominent Third Reich Official.

1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet
Image: Natasha Duckett
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This 1932 Chrysler Imperial Sedan looks like something out of an old New York Gangster movie, because it could well be! This model was believed to have been owned and driven by the New York gangster, Jack "Legs" Diamond.

1932 Chrysler Imperial Sedan 1932 Chrysler Imperial Sedan
Image: Natasha Duckett
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This 1973 Holden Brock HDT LJ GTR XVI Torana made its first appearance at Bathurst in 1973 and went on to become the stuff of legend with Brock going on to win the 1973 Manufacturer's Championship and the 1974 Touring Car Championship in this car.

 1973 Holden Brock HDT LJ GTR XVI Torana 1973 Holden Brock HDT LJ GTR XVI Torana
Image: Natasha Duckett
Source: Museum Victoria
 

But according to car enthusiast Norbert Probst it is this 1969 Brabham BT28 Formula 3 vehicle that stole the show:

1969 Brabham BT28 Formula 3 vehicle 1969 Brabham BT28 Formula 3 vehicle
Image: Natasha Duckett
Source: Museum Victoria
 

"Jack Brabham built his own cars, drove them, was his own mechanic. He was the all rounder of Australia. He did it all well," said Mr Probst.

Motor Show at the Royal Exhibition Building, May 1963. Motor Show at the Royal Exhibition Building, May 1963.
Image: Edwin G. Adamson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Victorian Hot Rod Show, Royal Exhibition Building, 20-22 January 2012

Melbourne Open House

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
28 July 2011
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Comments (0)

Since 2008, Melbourne’s architectural gems have thrown open their doors for one weekend a year as part of Melbourne Open House. This year the Royal Exhibition Building is among the 75 theatres, tunnels, halls, houses and more that will welcome visitors on 30 and 31 July, 2011.

Royal Exhibition Building interior Interior of the Great Hall of the Royal Exhibition Building with a view of the decorated dome.
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria
 

A new interpretive display on the mezzanine level will provide Melbourne Open House crowds with more information as they admire the REB’s magnificent murals and arches. It includes wonderful historical pictures of the life and times of Melbourne’s World Heritage building – photos of it in the glory days of International Exhibitions, through to its many uses during the mid-20th century, its restoration and World Heritage listing in 2004.

A newly produced documentary exploring the recent reconstruction of the 1880’s parterre beds, scroll garden and ‘German’ garden will be shown in the REB theatrette.

Royal Exhibition Building exterior Royal Exhibition Building exterior, December 2008.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Links:

Royal Exhibition Building website

Rippon Lea and REB

Author
by Nicole A
Publish date
14 April 2011
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Comments (1)

This guest post comes from Nicole Alley, who works in the Webteam. She is a geek at heart who loves taking photos.

I joined the National Trust this year, and recently visited Rippon Lea House & Gardens in Elsternwick. Rippon Lea is a 19th century suburban estate significant for its mansion, garden and outbuildings. And, as I discovered, it has a few connections to our very own Royal Exhibition Building too.

Rippon Lea Estate mansion and buildings Rippon Lea mansion and the expansive lawn leading to the lake.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Nicole Alley
 

I started my visit with a tour of the mansion, where I noticed a print of the Royal Exhibition Building hanging on a wall. Below it was a black and white print that I also recognised; it's of a painting by Tom Roberts showing the opening of the first Parliament of Australia at the Royal Exhibition Building in 1901.

Photos inside Rippon Lea mansion
Top image: Lithograph by C.Troedel & Co of the Royal Exhibition Building in 1880. Bottom image: A print of Tom Roberts' painting of the opening of the first Parliament of Australia, also known as The Big Picture.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Nicole Alley
 

I asked our guide, Jim, what the connection was. He explained that Sir Frederick Thomas Sargood, who created Rippon Lea, attended the opening of Parliament at the Royal Exhibition Building. Jim pointed to a face in the image: "That's him there." I knew Jim hadn't just picked a random face to liven up his story; Roberts was required to include at least 250 recognisable faces in his painting, including members of the new Commonwealth Parliament, and created a sketch with a key to the names. Sargood was a Senator at the time and is listed at number 121.

What's more, Sargood was the Executive Vice-President of the Commission for the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition, held at the Royal Exhibition Building. He was largely responsible for bringing out the conductor, Sir Frederick Cowen, at great expense, to establish an orchestra for the exhibition. (This Collections Online theme page explains how significant music was at the exhibition, and to Melbourne life in general.)

After the tour I set out to explore the grounds. With wide lawns, shrubberies, flower beds, shady trees, and cool features like an orchard, lake, boathouse, fernery and lookout tower, it was picturesque and adventurous. Growing up here would've been great – just imagine how long a game of hide and seek would've lasted!

Lake at Rippon Lea Estate Part of the lake at Rippon Lea Estate. The water is green because it is covered in duckweed.
Image: Nicole Alley
Source: Nicole Alley
 

There's a windmill too. When Sargood created Rippon Lea, the site wasn't connected to Melbourne's water supply so he devised a sophisticated rainwater collection, irrigation and drainage/recycling system. The windmill pumped the water through underground storage tanks and pipes and ensured the entire estate was self-sustainable. Rippon Lea was later switched across to the main supply, however the National Trust is now in the process of reinstating Sargood's system.

And that's another connection: in February we completed our World Heritage, World Futures project to reinstate the 1880s garden on the Western Forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building. Before the garden went in, we installed an underground system of tanks and pipes that will collect and distribute rainwater to Carlton Gardens, including the fountains and ponds, and also to the Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden inside Melbourne Museum.

Back at work, I did some further reading and found a few more interesting pieces of shared history between these two grand 19th century sites:

  • They were established within a decade of each other: Rippon Lea Estate in 1868-69, and the Royal Exhibition building in 1879-80.
  • They were both included in the National Heritage List in 2004. (That same year, the Royal Exhibition Building was also inscribed on the World Heritage List.)
  • Both buildings were designed by Joseph Reed of the architectural firm Reed & Barnes.
  • Rippon Lea's garden was created in the Gardenesque style, as was Carlton Gardens, where the REB is situated.
  • William Sangster designed Carlton Gardens (in conjunction with Joseph Reed); he was also brought in by Sargood to redesign Rippon Lea's garden in 1882.

Links:

Rippon Lea House and Gardens

Royal Exhibition Building

Royal Exhibition Building in Collections Online

REB garden finished!

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
28 February 2011
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Comments (3)

“The fountain is fountaining!” announced a colleague last Thursday. He’d passed the French Fountain in the eastern forecourt of the Royal Exhibition Building and noticed that it was flowing for the first time in ages. Years of drought and water restrictions meant the fountain has been out of action. However now that there are over a million litres of water stored in new tanks under the REB’s western forecourt, the fountain can run again.

It was recomissioned for the opening of the newly-completed German Garden, a careful restoration of the original garden that stood on the site for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. You’d never know that under the lush lawns and new garden beds – which follow the exact shape of the 1880 design – there’s a massive water tank and network of pipes to collect and distribute rainwater. Not only the gardens around the REB, but also Melbourne Museum’s Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden will benefit from this new sustainable water supply.

Completed western forecourt garden The Royal Exhibition Building's completed German Garden in the western forecourt on Rathdowne Street.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Thursday’s event marked the completion of the 18-month project World Heritage, World Futures. Even as the speeches were underway, people were wandering through the new landscape after so many months of it being hidden behind construction hoardings. Special guests, Minister for Consumer Affairs, the Hon Michael O’Brien, and Margaret Gardner AO, President of the Museums Board of Victoria, snipped the ceremonial purple ribbon and declared the garden open.

Guests at the garden opening Guests at the garden opening. L-R: Dr Patrick Greene, CEO of Museum Victoria; Dr. Anne-Marie Schleich, German Consul General; Professorr Margaret Gardner AO, President of the Museums Board of Victoria; the Hon Michael O’Brien, Minister for Consumer Affairs and the Right Hon the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Please come and admire the new garden with its restored iron gate, reinstated urns and stately plantings on your next visit to Carlton.

Performers in period costume Performers in period costume test out the new garden.
Image: Heath Warwick
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Lavender and jacarandas

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
1 February 2011
Comments
Comments (2)

In Melbourne's sizzling 38ºC heat today, the landscaping crew are planting out the Royal Exhibition Building western forecourt. The larger trees - including jacarandas, oaks and araucarias - are already planted. Pots and pots of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), lamb's ear (Stachys byzantina) and other plants have arrived and will go into the ground this week.

Plants in truck Plants arriving in trucks.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

  pots of lavender Plants in pots lined up near the central circular garden.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Workers on the REB site Landscapers planting out patches of lamb's ear.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The landscape architect, Barrie Gallagher from CDA Design Group, used plant catalogues from the 1800s, newspaper reports and early pictures of the site to design a garden that would reflect the original planting. The design is an informal arrangement of plants that would have been common in Victorian-era gardens, including sage, penstemon, flaxes and cabbage trees, within the beds around the formal circular driveway. Wonderful fragrant plants, such as mock orange, daphne and roses, will ensure the western forecourt garden will soon delight our noses as well as our eyes.

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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