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Artworks - Sketchbook Imperial 4to / by *****

From the Collection of Kew Historical Society Inc Level 1, Kew Court House 188 High Street Kew Victoria

One of five sketchbooks with illustrations by *****, a patient of the Kew Mental Hospital in an art therapy program, during the 1950s or 1960s. No work is dated although a number of the drawings/paintings are signed with the artist's name.
Object Registration
art therapy, kew mental hospital, herbert joseph chambers, dr eric cunningham dax
Historical information
Herbert Joseph Chambers was born in 1912 in Clifton Hill, Victoria. Later he was to live in Clark and Charles Streets in Northcote, in South Caulfield, and finally in Mentone. While he may have worked at the Kew Asylum before 1945, that year was when he was presented with a Certificate issued by the Department of Mental Hygiene (Victoria) declaring that he had completed training and passed the examinations required to work as a 'Mental Attendant’. The document is dated 19th December 1945 and signed by the Director of the Department and by the Co-Examiners. From at least 1945, he was to work as a member of the male staff of the Asylum, mainly in the Refractory Ward. A donor gifted to the Kew Historical Society in February 2019 a number of items collected by Herbert Chambers in his work at the Asylum. These include his Certificate of Registration, a photograph taken of him with two colleagues at Circular Quay in Sydney, a notebook containing ‘SP’ betting records of male asylum staff, and five sketchbooks with artwork created by ******, a patient of the Asylum. Herbert Chambers’ period of employment at the Kew Asylum coincided with the employment of the English psychiatrist Dr Eric Cunningham Dax (1908-2008) as Chairman of the Mental Hygiene Authority in 1952. Dr Dax introduced an art therapy program into Victorian psychiatric hospitals, including Kew, where it is likely that the five sketchbooks were created. The sketchbooks are believed to have been presented to Chambers by ***** as a “gift for looking after him”. Herbert Chambers retired from the Kew Asylum in c.1970 after working there for almost thirty years.
When Made
The Kew Historical Society has been the recipient of a number of important collections relating to the Kew Mental Hospital and the Children's Cottages, Kew, including their former incarnations. This is an important donation in this context as it includes five sketchbooks by a patient in an art therapy program at the Hospital. Art therapy programs were introduced by Dr Eric Cunningham Dax to Victorian asylums in the 1950s. The sketchbooks contain incomplete drawings and finished artworks. The donor believes that the patient who created the sketchbooks suffered from Schizophrenia. The sketchbooks are historically significant as representative examples of works created by patients in the program and for what they reveal about how mental illness may be manifested in a patient's artworks. The most significant repository of comparable works is held by the Dax Centre at Melbourne University.
Last updated
10 Jul 2019 at 10:37PM