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William Strutt, Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia 1852, c.1887, oil on canvas, 75.7 x 156.6 cm. The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of the Russell and Mab Grimwade Bequest 1973
Bushrangers, Victoria, Australia 1852, by William Strutt is one of the most significant works in the University of Melbourne Art Collection. Its display in this exhibition provides an insight into an event that took place on 16 October 1852. During 2002, the 150th anniversary of the event, the artwork itself, along with three studies for the painting and related images by Strutt of Colonial victoria, places the work within nineteenth century studio practice and the artist’s oeuvre. The display also includes infra-red research which shoes the complexities of picture-making. Bushrangers can be interpreted as an allegory of good and bad government and a commentary on the state of law and lawlessness in Melbourne at the time of the gold rush.
This exhibition aims to provide a context for the painting by displaying colonial works showing artists' interpretations of the social, political, and environmental concerns of the period. Key themes in this exhibition are: the discussion of Strutt’s practice in relation to the sketches, his ideology of colonial governance, and the discussion of the specific facts of the 16 October 1852 incident.