Journey to Mildura Education Fact Sheet Guest curator: Felicity St John Moore

Journey to Mildura
Guest curator: Felicity St John Moore
22 November 2013 - 13 April 2014
Mildura Arts Centre Regional Gallery
Education Fact Sheet
Danila Vassilieff, Cocky and Darling Scene, 30.1 x 40.3 cm, Gouache on newsprint. Mildura Arts Centre Collection
This education resource has been produced by Mildura Arts Centre in partnership with Heide Museum of Modern Art
for. Reproduction and communication is permited for educational purposes only. No part of this education resource
may be stored in a retrieval system, communicated or transmited in any form or by any means.
© Mildura Arts Centre Educational use only
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Education Fact Sheet
The Cossack Australian, Danila Vassilieff was a major artist and vital personality who lived in Mildura
and taught art at Mildura High School in the mid fifties. He spent his last few months in a hut on the
banks of the Darling, fishing in the rivers for the big cod and painting on newsprint from the Sunraysia
Daily. Vassilieff holds the key to the development of figurative expressionism in Melbourne.
This retrospective exhibition borrows from public and private collections to follow his career from
London to Sydney, Melbourne and Warrandyte and put the Mildura collection of his work in focus.
Danila Vassilieff at the Thomas Mitchell quarry at Lilydale, C.1950
The story of how Vassilieff came to make his career in
Australia reads like a script for an epic feature film. Set
across several continents and featuring a changing
cast of colourful characters, it is interwoven with
grand themes: war, survival, adventure, love, betrayal,
loss and above all, an innate drive to create. The
tale begins in Kagalnitskaya, a small village in South
Russia, where Vassilieff was born to a Cossack father
and Ukrainian mother. He demonstrated enough
potential as a young man for his parents to send him to
a military academy in St Petersburg, where he trained
as an engineer. Caught up in the Russian revolution
of 1917 and ensuing civil war, he joined the Cossack
cavalry and served on the Eastern Front, attaining the
rank of lieutenant colonel before being caught by
the Reds at Baku, on the Caspian Sea. After a daring
escape, he slowly made his way to China, living for a
time with Tartar horsemen in Armenia, learning English
in the employ of an Anglo-Persian oil company, and
travelling by train through India and Burma.
Vassilieff spent his last years teaching at high schools in Mildura, Swan Hill and Eltham, and fishing
on the Murray River. The disparate and restless imagery of his late work reflects the fragmentation
of his semi-itinerant lifestyle and his witty, sometimes scathing, observations of provincial society. He
never returned to Russia. In March 1958, on a visit to Heide, he died of heart failure in John Reed’s
© Mildura Arts Centre Educational use only
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Education Fact Sheet
What type of gallery or art gallery is Mildura Arts Centre? (Tick the relevant box)
Commercial gallery Artist run initiative (ARI) Public gallery
Online gallery Alternative art space Art rental space
How do you know this?
Who curated this exhibition? What are the curatorial objectives or intent for this exhibition?
What role has Danila Vassilieff played in the in the exhibition of artworks or catalogue complementing
this exhibition?
How has this exhibition been advertised and promoted to the general public?
© Mildura Arts Centre Educational use only
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Education Fact Sheet
Who is the viewing audience and how have they been considered for example in the marketing
of the exhibition or in the viewing space?
What methods and considerations regarding conservation and preservation of artworks that have
been displayed in this exhibition? (Include information regarding materials, lighting,
temperature, storage, handling and presentation of artworks)
Describe (at least) four methods that Mildura Arts Centre has utilised to keep these artworks safe
from being damaged whilst on display in the galleries.
What is likely to happen to the art works after the exhibition?
© Mildura Arts Centre Educational use only
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Education Fact Sheet
Further reading about Danila Vassilieff
Felicity St John Moore, Vassilieff and his Art, Macmillan Art
Publishing, Melbourne, 2012.
Haese, Richard, Rebels and Precursors: the revolutionary years of Australian art, Allen Lane,
Melbourne, 1981.
Harding, Lesley and Kendrah Morgan, Sunday’s Garden: Growing Heide, Heide Museum of
Modern Art, State Library of Victoria and the Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 2012.
Moore, Felicity St John, Vassilieff and his art, Oxford University Press, London, 1982.
Moore, Felicity St John, Vassilieff: A retrospective exhibition of paintings, sculptures and
watercolours, exh. cat., Heide Park & Art Gallery, 1985.
Moore, Felicity St John, Vassilieff and his art, Macmillan Art Publishing, Melbourne, 2012
Morgan, Kendrah, ‘Danila Vassilieff, A New Art History’, The Melbourne Review, May 2012, .
Palmer, Maudie (ed.), Heide Park and Art Gallery, Heide Park and Art Gallery, Melbourne,
1981. (see Richard Haese’s essay in this publication)
Reid, Barrett and Nancy Underhill (eds), Letters of John Reed: Defining Australian Cultural Life
1920–1981, Viking, Melbourne, 2001.
© Mildura Arts Centre Educational use only
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About Mildura Arts Centre Regional Gallery
Mildura Rural City Council’s regional gallery and permanent collection is based at the heart of Mildura Arts
Centre, and presents an ongoing schedule of exhibitions, public programs, and visual art opportunities for
the community.
The gallery offers a continuous program of exhibitions by both established and emerging artists from the
Murray Darling region. Visitors will also discover one of Victoria’s best regional collections; diverse touring
exhibitions of contemporary art, craft and social history, public programs and lectures.
The five galleries serve as the central hub of Sunraysia’s creative meeting place and a conduit between Rio
Vista Historic House and our modern multi-purpose proscenium theatre.
Before your visit
Bookings are essential for school visits to Mildura Arts Centre, we prefer at least one weeks notice prior to
your visit. Please contact one of the members of our friendly Gallery team to discuss your visit via phone
(03) 5018 8330 or email [email protected]
You will also need to complete a Group Visit Booking Form prior to your visit which can be downloaded via
our website at
Teachers are also encouraged to visit Mildura Arts Centre prior to a booked school visit to familiarise
themselves with the exhibitions and facilities.
Keep up to date with the latest Mildura Arts Centre news and events by subscribing to the Mildura Arts
Centre e-news at
Mildura Arts Centre
Gallery · Rio Vista Historic House · Theatre · Sculpture park
199 Cureton Avenue
T 03 5018 8330
Open daily 10am–5pm
Closed: Good Friday & Christmas Day
Anzac Day: 1pm to 4pm
© Mildura Arts Centre Educational use only
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