THE PAPERS PUBLISHED in this volume were delivered at the one day symposium at Shell House, Melbourne on 20 November 1 993 following the opening of the National Gallery of Victoria's major exhibition, Shell presents VAN GOGH: his sources, genius and influence.
Two of the contributors, Louis van Tilborgh and Ann Hoenigswald, were couriers of paintings from their museums overseas, viz. the Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. A third contributor, Professor Carol Zemel, an eminent and lively Van Gogh scholar, was invited to Australia from the State University of New York, Buffalo, where she is currently Associate Professor of Art History, to give the keynote address. Her trip was funded with the assistance of Art Exhibitions Australia Limited.
The remaining contributors are all Australian art historians selected for their expertise 'in late 19th century art and their particular topics. Although written for the symposium, Professor Virginia Spate's paper on Van Gogh and Monet is presented here for the first time. Her scheduled return from New York, where she was awarded the prestigious Mitchell Prize for 20th century Art History for her book The Colour of Time, Claude Monet was prevented by an airline strike. One other paper, presented by Dr Christopher Allen on the topic of Van Gogh's politics, is not included here because of its similarity to his essay in the exhibition catalogue.
As for the title, The Songlines of Legend, it was chosen both to suggest an Australian perspective on Van Gogh and to emphasise the connective nature of the exhibition. In Aboriginal culture, the songlines are networks for cultural transmission and the songs themselves landmark the events and the people they come from. Similarly, one can say that Van Gogh's paintings are the terrain of legend and landmarks for cultural connections. These connections are central to the exhibition, curated by James Mollison AO, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, in which twenty-five works by Van Gogh are displayed alongside pictures by artists of the Hague School, the Barbizon School (above all Jean-Francois Millet) , and by those French Impressionists, Neo-Impressionists and Symbolists whom Van Gogh either knew or admired. ……………………………….