A Circle of Friends

The development and presentation of ‘Eryldene’, firstly as a home and now as a museum, may be better understood through an examination of the artistic and academic circles in which Professor Waterhouse worked and acted.
The evidence for my research was diverse both geographically and as to type. My focus was on two distinct areas of artistic endeavour, namely the Burdekin House Exhibition in 1929 and Professor Waterhouse’s role as Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. As a result, my initial enquiries sought to uncover material that was directly relevant to these two areas and searched the following:
1. The Caroline Simpson Library of Sydney Living Museums
2. The Art Gallery of New South Wales
3. The archives of the University of Sydney and the Sydney Teachers’ College
4. The Macleay Museum of the University of Sydney
5. The personal records of Janet Waterhouse, now with the State Library of New South Wales, and
6. The archives kept by the Eryldene Trust itself.
Secondary sources include monographs of a number of artists who were part of Professor Waterhouse’s circle of friends, including Lionel Lindsay, Thea Proctor, Hera Roberts, Roy de Maistre and William Dobell as well as colleagues from the University of Sydney, namely Leslie Wilkinson and Arthur Sadler.
My aim in completing this project is to arm volunteer guides with little-known information concerning an area of the life of Professor Waterhouse and thus enable a fresh approach to their expositions. Beyond this initial phase, I intend to continue my research to determine whether an exhibition might be mounted on this theme to encourage a higher level of visitations to the property. From my time spent at open weekends this semester, it appears to me that local history, an interest in gardens and interest in the aesthetic connection with China and Japan are the principal reasons for visits to ‘Eryldene’. The ‘Circle of Friends’ theme would hopefully expand this group.
My review of a number of archives and specifically my research into the Burdekin House Exhibition have had significant results. Professor Waterhouse is chiefly remembered for his work in the cultivation of the species camellia and garden design generally: in this regard his work in fostering ties with China and Japan was of continuing significance. However this work was primarily carried out in his retirement, so that his earlier endeavours in education and his connections to the Sydney art scene in the early years of the twentieth century have largely been ignored. Bringing this aspect of his work to light will provide a more rounded view of his life and achievements for visitors to ‘Eryldene’ and generally.
Secondly, the provenance of a number of objects held within the ‘Eryldene’ collection has been altered. Three paintings held in the collection had been recorded as having been purchased at the Burdekin House Exhibition due to labels on the back of their frames. My research has found that items were not sold from this exhibition; rather that individuals such as Professor Waterhouse lent furniture and objects for display. My further research has found that a number of those items were purchased by Waterhouse at an auction of property owned by William Hardy Wilson in 1922. Proper attribution of objects is critical to understanding heritage and is of particular consequence at ‘Eryldene’ due to the inclusion of furnishings within the state government ‘Statement of Significance’.
The findings which have resulted from my research are a foundation for further work to be done in relation to the early life of Professor Waterhouse. It is my intention to utilize my research as the foundation for comprehensive guides to the history and assessment of the objects and furnishings in each room at ‘Eryldene’ and to work towards the presentation of an exhibition which has as its theme the ‘Circle of Friends’ at the heart of this project.