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John Treloar, Official War Art and the Australian War Memorial*


  • *

    Thanks are due to Peter Londey and Tim Sherratt for their helpful comments on drafts of this article.


John Treloar's involvement in the Australian War Memorial began in 1917, and he was Director from 1920 until his death in 1952. The idea of a national war memorial serving also as a museum, gallery and library was not his: the credit for that goes to Charles Bean. But there would have been no museum, gallery or library without Treloar's organisational ability and collecting genius. Treloar was responsible at first for collecting a documentary record, but later as the vision expanded, he began to acquire many other kinds of material, including art. It was an unusual challenge for a soldier, public servant, and man who scrupulously distanced his emotions from his work. This article examines aspects of Australia's official and commissioned war art and teases out the relationship between the bureaucrat and the artist. I suggest that the administrative effort involved in the war art schemes has to be recognised as part of the process of cultural production, and that in these circumstances the life of the bureaucrat is as worthy of exploration as that of the artist.