School of Arts

Graeme Williams

CRCAH doctoral candidate

Another Socio-Cultural Reading: the Melbourne Art Scene and the ‘Vics’


The Melbourne ‘art scene’ has existed since Victoria was proclaimed as a separate Colony/State in 1851. During the greater part of this time, Melbourne’s Victorian Artists’ Society (VAS) has functioned as a meeting and an exhibition space for visual artists. Although it is Australia’s oldest continuous organisation representing visual artists, the Society has not been controversial and has been largely ignored by academics as a focus of research in its own right. Notwithstanding, this, the two groups which have been the subject of the most academic attention and research, namely the Australian Academy of Art and the Contemporary Artists’ Society, were announced and formed within its walls and many of the key proponents of both these organisations were members.

This thesis explores the relationship that has existed between the VAS and Victoria’s art community during its life and examines its role during this period. To what extent has the Society been a harbinger for change and to what extent has the commercial gallery system replaced it as the main platform for the success of the artist.

Through an examination of the Melbourne art scene during the 150 year history of the Victorian Artist Society, it answers the following questions:

  1. Is the Victorian Artists’ Society of relevance to professional artists today?
  2. How did societies and clubs in general, once servicing the needs of professional artists, evolve into a more general function?
  3. Where do contemporary professional artists working in Melbourne and surrounds find what the society or club once offered the arts community?
  4. What sustains, inspires, informs, and what role does the emergence of the commercial gallery play in this?

Graeme Williams is a retired architect and building surveyor with an abiding interest in the visual arts and Melbourne’s cultural history both as a collector, curator and organiser of an art discussion series.

Published works

Williams, Graeme Henry. "Menzies Grand Vision: The Graeme Love Memorial Scholarship." In Freemasonry-the Darebin Research Papers, edited by Victorian Lodge of Research No. 218, vol 28, Transactions of the Victorian Lodge of Research, ed. Victorian Lodge of Research No. 218, 16. Ivanhoe, Melbourne: Victorian Lodge of Research No. 218, 2014.

Williams, Graeme Henry (2016), 'Australian Artists Abroad', M/C Journal 19 (5 (Abroad - Edited Jillian Adams & Melania Pantelich)).

Williams, Graeme Henry (2016a), 'Manalangarna and Napier', Savage Journal, 1 (First), 5.

Williams, Graeme H. "The Formation of the Melbourne Savage Club." Savage Journal No. 2 (2017): 70-75.

Unpublished works

Williams, Graeme Henry. Three Australian Women Artists in Paris. A Suitcase of Her Own: Women and Travel. Edited by Institute of English Cultures and Literatures Department of Postcolonial Studies and Travel Literatures. Szczyrk, Poland: University of Silesia, 2017.