A house museum and the Paterson Brothers’ Scottish influence on decorative arts in colonial Victoria
This case study posits Villa Alba, a house museum located in Studley Park, Melbourne, as the only surviving example of the work of key Victorian artist-designers, the Paterson brothers, one of the premier art decorating firms in Australia from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. Analysing the Patersons’ work reveals the imagination, skill and decorative styling of Scottish artists working from Melbourne during this period, and the fertile Scottish nexus between these artists, their friends, exhibiting societies and patrons.
The subject of this essay is a pair of alpine ash skis in the collection of the National Museum of Australia. Although the skis themselves appear unremarkable, by unhitching them from the particularities of their manufacture and intrinsic purpose, these commonplace objects conceal an unexpected and complex narrative that ranges geographically, historically and culturally – from Chinese immigrant identity to complex contemporary concepts of what it means to be Australian.