Historical information

This portrait was presented by the Victorian Bar to the Library in 1917 to commemorate Schutt’s fifty years as the Supreme Court Librarian. The portrait was presented at a ceremony presided over by Mr Mitchell KC who noted the “unanimity with which the members of the profession had adopted the suggestion that the eminent services of Mr Schutt should be recognised in this way.” Chief Justice Madden also spoke on this occasion and there were a number of judges and members of the legal profession present.
John Schutt had been born in England in 1831 and migrated to Victoria as a young man, initially working as a school teacher he was appointed librarian, during Redmond Barry’s time in 1866. He started work in the Old Court in Russell street and would have supervised the move of the library to its new and greatly expanded premises in William Street in 1884. As well as secretary to the Library committee, he also acted as the Secretary of the Board of Examiners on occasion. After his death in 1919 in its obituary, the Williamstown Chronicle noted that Schutt was regarded as a Solon, an ancient greek law giver who gave wise advice.

Away from the Court he was a councillor of many years standing in Williamstown, representing the Victoria Ward, what is now the suburb of Newport, it would appear Schutt street in Newport was named after him.

His eldest son William Schutt was appointed a Supreme Court judge in 1919.

The portrait of Schutt is a companion piece to the Sir Thomas a’Beckett picture painted shortly before the Schutt portrait and for the same client, they share the same frame design with gum leaf motif. This portrait was undertaken early in Meldrum’s career and before he had fully developed his theory of painting. Duncan Max Meldrum (1875-1955) was a controversial figure in his later years as he strongly opposed modernism and non-figurative art. His works are found in most of the state galleries, including a wide selection at the National Gallery of Victoria.


This portrait is of interest for whom it portrays and as the work of a well known artist

Physical description

Full length portrait in oils of John Schutt. Schutt is standing up looking out the to the viewer. His hand rests on a small pile of books. He is dressed soberly in a three piece black suit. His white beard and hair all meticulously trimmed and realised. The props used in this painting provide the main colour as the background has become dark over the years. The books sit atop of a red and gold draped table. Behind Schutt is what appears to be a crimson velvet chair and he gives every appearence of having just arisen from the chair to engage with the viewer. The painting has an unusual light source at the foot of the painting with Schutt's legs providing shadows.

Inscriptions & markings

Signed Meldrum lower right hand corner. Plaque inscription is John Schutt, Esq. Supreme Court Librarian