Guide to the Papers of Peter Timms


MS 9464

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Peter Timms
Papers of Peter Timms
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 9464
1.54 metres (11 boxes, 3 folio boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The major part of the collection consists of research and subject files relating to his book Australian studio pottery & china painting (1986). The papers include alphabetically-arranged artist files, photographs, historical notes on technical education, arts and craft societies, commercial potteries and ceramic styles and motifs, together with a small amount of interesting original correspondence with potters, their relatives and associates.

The remaining component of the collection comprises documentation relating to Timms' 1978 exhibition entitled 'Australian Pottery 1900-1950', and a cancelled 1992 exhibition on the influence of Japanese folkcraft pottery on Australian post-war ceramics, focusing particularly on the work of ceramists Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Peter Timms, National Library of Australia, MS 9464, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers of curator, gallery director and writer Peter Timms were purchased by the National Library in April 2000.

A portrait photograph of Timms, taken by Virginia Wallace-Crabbe at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 1993, is housed in the Pictorial Collection at PIC P605/1-26 LOC Q91.


In their transfer to the Library, the original arrangement of the papers has been preserved, according to Timm's three subject groupings. File titles are for the most part those used by Timms.

Biographical Note

1948Born 9 December, Melbourne
c. 1974Diploma of Art, Swinburne College of Technology
1975Compiled Catalogue of the permanent collection for the Shepparton Art Gallery; curated 'Sir John Longstaff (1862-1941) : an exhibition', Shepparton Art Gallery
1976Co-ordinated 'Illusion and Reality' exhibition with John Stringer, Australian Gallery Directors' Council; curated 'The Road Show : Attitudes to the Car' exhibition, Shepparton Art Gallery
1976-91Board member, Regional Galleries Association of New South Wales
1978Curated 'Australian Pottery 1900-1950' exhibition for Shepparton Art Gallery and publication of related catalogue Australian pottery, 1900 to 1950
1978Director, Shepparton Arts Centre
1984Study in Italy and London, Winston Churchill Fellowship
1985Curator, Manly Art Gallery & Museum
1986Publication of Australian studio pottery & china painting
1987Director, Manly Art Gallery & Museum
1986-90Member of Crafts Board and Visual Arts/Crafts Board, Australia Council
1987-90Chair, National Infrastructure Committee, VACB
1988Curated 'The People : the Present' component of 'The Face of Australia' bicentennial exhibition; curated 'State of the Craft : BigVessels' exhibition, University of Tasmania; co-edited Cultivating the country : living with the arts in regional Australia
1990Curated 'Getting to Know Mr Booth' exhibition, Riddoch Art Gallery, South East Cultural Trust, South Australia
1991Member, National Exhibitions Touring Scheme, Victoria
1991-Art reviewer for The Age
1992Fellowship, VACB; curated 'Australia Gold', Asialink, Southeast Asian tour
1993Curated 'The Black Show' for Geelong Art Gallery national tour; edited The nature of the beast : writings on craft
1999Edited The nature of gardens
In addition to his published monographs, Timms has contributed articles to Arts Monthly, Craft Australia, Craft Arts, Listener, Art Australia, Pottery in Australia, Ceramics (Australia), Ceramics (UK) and Kunsti(Estonia). As well as his written work, Timms has acted as a consultant to various public organisations including Albany Council (Western Australia), the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Heidelberg Hospital and Gertrude Street Artists Spaces (Victoria).

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Australian studio pottery china painting, 1986

In 1986 Timms' study Australian studio pottery & china painting was published by Oxford University Press. This series comprises research materials amassed while writing the book, which had its origins in a 1978 exhibition entitled 'Australian Pottery, 1900-1950' he had curated for the Shepparton Art Gallery.

The first part of the series consists of approximately 850 file cards containing handwritten notes on some 400 Australian potters working prior to World War II. The cards are arranged alphabetically and are noted with their source of information.

The latter component of papers is made up of subject files documenting pre-war Australian pottery and china painting. They include a sequence of alphabetically arranged files by artists' names which contain reviews, articles, handwritten notes, photographs and exhibition catalogues. Of special interest are biographical letters dispersed through the folders, which were exchanged with some of the potters, their relatives or descendants.

Other topics documented in the series include the history of state technical education, the activities of arts and craft societies, nineteenth century commercial and industrial potteries, nationalist motifs, post-war supply legislation on importation of pottery and porcelain, and Asian influences on Australian ceramics. Filed at the end of the folders are 200 black and white photographs used as illustrations in the book, together with colour transparencies.

Card file, A-B (File 1) - Box 1

Card file, C-F (File 2) - Box 1

Card file, G-K (File 3) - Box 1

Card file, L-O (File 4) - Box 1

Card file, P-S (File 5) - Box 2

Card file, T-Z (File 6) - Box 2

Shepparton exhibition, 1977-79, 1989 (File 7) - Box 2

A, c.1982-84; B, 1978-95 (File 8) - Box 2

Boyd family, 1983-98 (File 9) - Box 2

China painting - general, c. 1983 (File 10) - Box 2

C, 1982-86 (File 11) - Box 3

D, 1983-98 (File 12) - Box 3

E, c. 1983; F, c. 1983; G, c.1980-83 (File 13) - Box 3

H, 1985-93 (File 14-15) - Box 3

J, 1984-91; K, c. 1984; L, c. 1984 (File 16) - Box 3

M, 1981-96 (File 17) - Box 3

N, 1983-85; O, c. 1983; P, c. 1986-97 (File 18) - Box 3

Q, c. 1985; R, c. 1983-93 (File 19) - Box 4

S, c. 1984; T, c. 1983-84; V, c. 1983 (File 20) - Box 4

W, c. 1983; XYZ, c. 1983 (File 21) - Box 4

English studio pottery, c. 1985 (File 22) - Box 4

Newspaper indexes, c. 1985 (File 23) - Box 4

Publicity, reviews regarding Australian studio pottery china painting, 1986-87 (File 24) - Box 4

Technical education - New South Wales (File 25) - Box 4

Technical education - Victoria (File 26) - Box 5

Technical education - South Australia, Tasmania (File 27) - Box 5

Technical education - Queensland, Western Australia (File 28) - Box 5

Technical education - general (File 29) - Box 5

Society of Arts and Crafts (New South Wales) (File 30) - Box 5

Arts and Crafts Society of Victoria (File 31-32) - Box 5

South Australian Society of Arts (File 33) - Box 6

Arts and Crafts Society of Tasmania (File 34) - Box 6

Arts and Crafts Society (Queensland) (File 35) - Box 6

Arts and crafts groups in Western Australia (File 36) - Box 6

Photocopied newspaper clippings relating to early 20th century arts and crafts exhibitions - Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria (File 37) - Folio-Box 3

Australian flora - nationalism (File 38) - Box 6

Asian and European art wares influence - general (File 39) - Box 6

Australian commercial potteries - general; Australian commercial potteries - Tasmania (File 40) - Box 7

Australian commercial potteries - Mashman Bros. (New South Wales) (File 41) - Box 7

Australian commercial potteries - Lithgow (New South Wales) (File 42) - Box 7

Australian commercial potteries - Fowler (New South Wales) (File 43) - Box 7

Australian commercial potteries - minor potteries and general (New South Wales) (File 44) - Box 7

Australian commercial potteries - early colonial New South Wales (File 45) - Box 7

Australian commercial potteries - South Australia [empty file]; Australian commercial potteries - Brunswick, Preston, Bendigo (Victoria) (File 46) - Box 7

Arts and crafts magazine (File 47) - Box 8

Commonwealth Acts relating to supply and rehabilitation (File 48) - Box 8

Photographic illustrations (File 49-50) - Folio-Box 1, 2

Series 2. Exhibition 'Australian Pottery 1900-1950'

In 1978 Timms curated the exhibition 'Australian Pottery 1900-1950'. The show was the first fully researched survey of Australian pottery as it existed prior to the 1950s, before the introduction of stoneware and the influence of Japanese traditions. The 117 pieces by 50 Australian potters documented the evolution of Australian pottery, from early wares in the art nouveau style, through Australian floral and fauna motifs of the 1920s and 1930s, to the expressionist ceramics of Stanislav Halpern. Works were drawn from a variety of galleries and private collections, and included pieces by Klytie Pate, Gladys Reynell, Anne Dangar, Merric Boyd, Arthur Boyd and John Perceval as well as many lesser known artists. After opening at the Shepparton Art Gallery on 5 September, the exhibition toured nationally, showing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (7 December 1978-9 January 1979), the National Gallery of Victoria (18 January-8 February 1979) and Art Gallery of South Australia (24 February-24 March 1979).

Included in this series are exhibition reports, correspondence, financial records, reviews and drafts relating to the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue. An additional file containing other papers relating to the show is contained in Series 1/Folder 7.

Papers and correspondence (File 1-3) - Box 8

Draft catalogue (File 4) - Box 8

Series 3. Post-war Australian and New Zealand ceramics

In the years following World War II overseas ceramics began to exert their influence on Australian pottery style. Of significance in this period of change were the works of the English potter Bernard Leach (1887-1979) and Japanese artist Shoji Hamada (1894-1978).

In 1991 Timms was contracted to curate a show of works reflecting the influences of Leach and Hamada and the Japanese folk tradition on Australian post-war ceramics. The exhibition, provisionally titled 'The Great Exchange : use and development of tradition,' would examine the interchange of ideas, philosophies and techniques between Australia, Japan and England from the late 1940s onwards. Drawing on collections in Australia and overseas, it was proposed that the exhibition would open at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery in August 1992, then tour nationally. Unfortunately, after planning had reached an advanced stage, the Australia Council withdrew its funding.

This series comprises a sequence of files containing background notes and information relating to the proposed exhibition and the work of Leach and Hamada, including handwritten notes, photographs, catalogues, photocopied reviews and articles. Also appearing in the folders is correspondence with the Ballarat Art Gallery and other lending galleries, loan agreements and letters exchanged with the Australia Council.

General ceramics and aesthetics (File 1) - Box 8

Australia - general early history (File 2) - Box 9

New Zealand (File 3-4) - Box 9 + Folio-Box 3

Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada (File 5-6) - Box 9

English traditional pottery (File 7) - Box 9

Japonisme in Australia (File 8) - Box 9

Japonisme in England and the United States (File 9) - Box 10

Japan - history, politics, sociology (File 10) - Box 10

Journal articles and papers regarding Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada (File 11) - Box 10

Bernard Leach (File 12) - Box 10

Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada (File 13-14) - Box 10

Negatives and papers (File 15) - Box 11

Papers and correspondence (File 16-17) - Box 11

Worksheets (File 18-19) - Box 11

Papers and correspondence (File 20-21) - Box 11