Ursula Hoff

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Ursula Hoff AO OBE (26 December 1909, London, UK – 10 January 2005, Melbourne) – Australian scholar, academic, curator, writer, critic, and lecturer; Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (1968–1973); London Adviser of the Felton Bequest (1975–83); author of numerous books, catalogues, articles, reviews, and scholarly publications on art.

Early years[edit]

Ursula Hoff was born on 26 December 1909 in London to Hans Leopold Hoff, Hamburg-based German Jewish merchant, and his wife, née Thusnelde Margarethe (Tussi) Bulcke, of a German Lutheran upper-middle-class family.[1] Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Hamburg, where Ursula grew up and completed her primary and secondary education.

In 1930, Ursula Hoff commenced academic studies spread between the universities of Frankfurt, Cologne, and Munich; later the same year, she commenced studies at the University of Hamburg; among her teachers were Erwin Panofsky, Aby Warburg, Ernst Cassirer, and Fritz Saxl.[2]

Upon Adolf Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of Germany and the introduction of anti-Jewish measures in January 1930, Ursula Hoff's father, Leopold Hoff, left immediately for London; Ursula and her mother Tussi followed him shortly in July. Because she was born in England, Ursula was able to take up British citizenship, and due to her excellent English, she was quickly absorbed into British academic and cultural institutions. Over the next several years she worked with the curatorial staff at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford; the British Museum; at the Courtauld Institute of Art.[3] However, existing employment regulations in England barred her, and many other refugees, from permanent full-time positions.[4]

She was also able to continue working on a doctoral thesis, Rembrandt und England, which investigated the influence of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn in the eighteenth-century England, primarily through the appointment of Sir Godfrey Kneller to the court of William III of England in 1688. From 1934 to 1935 returned to complete her thesis at the University of Hamburg, where she was awarded a PhD.[5]

From 1935 to 1939 Hoff continued living in London and working in a variety of curatorial and research positions at the Royal Academy; National Gallery; and the British Museum; and wrote for the Journal of the Warburg Institute and the Burlington Magazine.

National Gallery of Victoria[edit]

In December 1939, Hoff arrived in Australia to take up a position of Secretary at the University Women's College, University of Melbourne. In 1942, she was invited by Sir Daryl Lindsay, the newly appointed Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, to deliver a series of lunch time lectures at Melbourne's premier cultural institution.[6] In 1943, Lindsay appointed Hoff as the NGV's Assistant Keeper of Prints and Drawings.[7] She thus became the first woman and first tertiary qualified art historian to work within a state gallery in Australia. Hoff remained at the NGV until her retirement in 1973, becoming Keeper of Prints and Drawings in 1949, and its Deputy Director in 1968.

During her tenure at the National Gallery of Victoria, Hoff pioneered the professional cataloguing of the NGV's holdings; produced important and internationally recognised publications and catalogues of its collections; curated numerous important exhibitions; published monographs on Charles Conder,[8] William Blake,[9] Rembrandt,[10] and many others; secured important works by Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso, Anthony van Dyck, Giovanni Batista Tiepolo, Salvador Dalí, and innumerable others for the NGV's collection;[11] became Founding Editor of the Art Bulletin of Victoria; and published extensively in Australian and International art journals.

An excellent source on Ursula Hoff’s early years and her work at the National Gallery of Victoria is Sheridan Palmer’s Centre of the Periphery: Three European Art Historians in Melbourne (Nth Melbourne, Vic: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2008).

London advisor to the Felton Bequest[edit]

In 1975, Ursula Hoff was appointed Advisor to the Felton Bequest and moved to London. Over her tenure as the London Advisor, she secured many outstanding works for the National Gallery of Victoria, including Francisco de Goya, Robert Rauschenberg, Bridget Riley, François Boucher, Canaletto, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and an important suite of 16th- and 17th-century Indian Mughal miniatures.[12]

She continued travelling extensively to research the NGV’s collection; assist with the loan exhibition of masterpieces from the State Hermitage, Leningrad, USSR (now St Petersburg, Russia),[13] which toured Australian galleries 1979–80; and continued contributing articles to Australian and International art journals.

During her time overseas, she also advised the Everard Studley Miller Bequest, the Art Foundation of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Australia, as well as a number of high-profile private collections, notably that of James Fairfax.[14]

Ursula Hoff retired as London Advisor of the Felton Bequest in April 1983.[15]

Important sources on Hoff’s years as London Advisor of the Felton Bequest are her meticulously kept diaries, which had been donated to the University of Melbourne Archives; and Colin Holden's The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff (Nth Melbourne, Vic: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009).

Educational role[edit]

Ursula Hoff also played an important role in education of art history in Australia. In 1947, she was invited by Professor Joseph Burke, the inaugural Herald Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne, to join the teaching staff of his new department. In consequence of her appointment at the National Gallery of Victoria, Hoff taught part-time and in the evenings. Hoff's teaching was firmly in the tradition of Erwin Panofsky, revealing the meaning of disguised symbols. First-year students had to read Panofsky's Studies in Iconology (1939) and Meaning in the Visual Arts (1955). She reinforced her lectures by conducting seminars for students in the NGV's Print Room. Hoff continued her dual position of the NGV curator and the University of Melbourne lecturer until her move to London in 1974.[16]

Upon her return from London in 1984, Hoff was invited to resume her teaching at the University of Melbourne, and in 1986 she was appointed Senior Associate, Department of Fine Arts, University of Melbourne.[17]

The importance of Hoff's educational role in Australia is extensively discussed in Sheridan Palmer's Centre of the Periphery, 2008.

Later years[edit]

After retiring as London Advisor of the Felton Bequest, Ursula Hoff returned to Australia in 1984 and settled in Carlton, Victoria. She was invited to continue lecturing at the University of Melbourne, and in 1986 she was appointed Senior Associate of the University's Department of Fine Arts.[18]

She also continued researching the National Gallery of Victoria's collections; produced the fifth edition of European Paintings before 1800 at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1995; published a monograph on Arthur Boyd;[19] contributed essays to catalogues of exhibitions by Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, and John Brack; and wrote for Australian art journals.[20]

Ursula Hoff died in Heidelberg, Victoria, on 10 January 2005.[21] A private service was organised at St Peter's, Eastern Hill, Melbourne, on 22 January,[22] which was followed by a memorial service on 25 February at the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria.[23]

Recognition[edit]

  • Awarded PhD (Hamburg), LLD, DLit (Monash), DLitt (honoris causa)(La Trobe)
  • Scholarship from Dutch Ministry of Education to Netherlands Institute of Art History 1963
  • Britannica Australia Award 1966
  • Appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970
  • Awarded Order of Australia (AO) in 1985

Further information[edit]

Upon her retirement as its London Advisor, the Felton Bequest commissioned from John Brack a portrait of Ursula Hoff, which it then donated to the National Gallery of Victoria.[24]

Hoff was an active member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, serving as president in 1970 and vice-president in 1971.[25]

Hoff left the sum of AUD600,000 to fund an annual Ursula Hoff Internship, administered by the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne.[26]

Publications[edit]

  • Rembrandt and England (private printing) Hamburg 1935
  • Charles I, Patron of the Arts Collins, London 1942
  • Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Victoria Cheshires, Melbourne 1949
  • Charles Conder, His Australian Years National Gallery Society, Melbourne 1961
  • The National Gallery of Victoria Thames and Hudson, London 1973? ISBN 0-500-20133-1
  • European Paintings Before 1800 National Gallery Society, Melbourne

For complete list of publications, see http://www.ursulahoff.org/index.php/bibliography

References[edit]

  1. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, 13–14
  2. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, 14–22
  3. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, 22–29
  4. ^ This is documented, as well as other details of the difficulties of refugees from Nazism in the UK before World War II, in Barbara Falk, Caught in a Snare: Hitler’s Refugee Academics 1933–1949, History Department Monographs no. 25, History Department, University of Melbourne, 1988, pp. 82–109, and specifically p. 89 (re the Foreign Office on the UK as a transit country).
  5. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, 55–57
  6. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, 97–99
  7. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, 97–99
  8. ^ Charles Conder: His Australian Years. Melbourne: National Gallery Society of Victoria, 1960.
  9. ^ The Melbourne Dante Illustrations by William Blake. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1961.
  10. ^ (with Nicholas Draffin) Rembrandt 1606–1696. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1969
  11. ^ European Art before 1800, 5th edn. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1995
  12. ^ See C. Holden, The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff, 2009, passim
  13. ^ C. Holden, The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff, 2009, 70–71
  14. ^ C. Holden, The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff, 2009, 28–29
  15. ^ C. Holden, The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff, 2009, 230–33
  16. ^ S. Palmer, Centre of the Perifery, 2008, passim
  17. ^ C. Holden, The Outsider, 2009, xv, 42
  18. ^ C. Holden, The Outsider, 2009, xv, 42; and G.Ryles, "Ursula Hoff in Retirement", in A Tribute…, 2005, 21–2
  19. ^ The Art of Arthur Boyd. London: Deutsch, 1986
  20. ^ G.Ryles, "Ursula Hoff in Retirement", in A Tribute…, 2005, 21–2
  21. ^ G.Ryles, "Ursula Hoff in Retirement", in A Tribute…, 2005, 21–2
  22. ^ G.Ryles, "Ursula Hoff in Retirement", in A Tribute…, 2005, 21–2; and Irena Zdanowicz. "Ursula Hoff as Mentor", in A Tribute…, 2005, 9–11
  23. ^ See A Tribute to Dr Ursula Hoff AO OBE, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2005
  24. ^ http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore – retrieved 21 March 2011
  25. ^ http://www.humanities.org.au/Resources/Downloads/Publications/Proceedings/Proc1971.pdf
  26. ^ http://www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au/ursula_hoff.aspx

Sources[edit]

http://www.ursulahoff.org/ A Tribute to Dr Ursula Hoff AO OBE. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2005 Holden, Colin. The Outsider: A Portrait of Ursula Hoff. North Melbourne, Victoria: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2009. Palmer, Sheridan. Centre of the Periphery: Three European Art Historians in Melbourne. Nth Melbourne, Vic: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2008. Poynter, John. Mr Felton’s Bequests. Melbourne: Miegunyah, 2003.