Guide to the Papers of Robert Ingpen


MS 9141, MS Acc12.13, MS Acc18.123, MS Acc18.148

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Robert Ingpen
Papers of Robert Ingpen
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 9141, MS Acc12.13, MS Acc18.123, MS Acc18.148
13.58 metres (17 ms boxes + 4 phase boxes + 1 map folio + 1 packet + 8 pieces)
Language of Materials
Special Collections (Manuscripts)


Scope and Contents

The collection comprises personal papers and artwork created or collected by Ingpen in the course of his illustrating and writing career and through his involvement in various organisations.

Aspects of Ingpen's work reflected in the papers include designing books, murals, postage stamps, posters, and publicity brochures, work with the United Nations, with heritage, conservation and scientific institutions, and with CSIRO. His long association with the establishment and operation of the Swan Hill Pioneer Village is also well documented.

The papers include correspondence, design proposals, consultant reports, drafts of publications and talks, layouts and mock-ups of books, research files, exhibition catalogues, publicity material and newspaper cuttings.

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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Robert Ingpen, National Library of Australia, [class number, box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers were donated to the Library under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts scheme.

Finding Aid Source(s)

Please note: This finding aid may comprise or contain descriptive information provided by donors, researchers and/or volunteers.

Collection Retrieval Advice

Please note: each consignment in this collection has a separate box number sequence (i.e. there may be multiple Box 1s). Please cite the relevant Class number as well as the Box number when requesting retrieval of material from the collection.

Biographical Note

Robert Ingpen, illustrator, designer, writer and consultant, was born in Geelong in 1936. He was educated in Geelong before studying art and illustration under Harold Freedman at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1955-58. Early in his career he specialised in relating design to scientific research, and this included work as a graphic design artist for the CSIRO, 1958-67, commissions for designing pamphlets on fisheries for the United Nations in Mexico and Peru, and involvement in a number of Australian conservation and environmental projects. He launched into freelance work in 1968.

Ingpen's work has focused on environmental and heritage issues and his exploration of fantasy and imagination. He is best known as an illustrator, and as an author of children's books, and historical books and pamphlets for adults. He has painted murals on public buildings, designed the flag and coat of arms for the Northern Territory, and designed postage stamps, including stamps for the Captain Cook Bicentenary and the 50th anniversary of CSIRO. He has been involved in a number of conservation and environmental projects, including the establishment of the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement as consultant/designer. He was one of the founders of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Ingpen rose to prominence with his illustrations for Colin Thiele's classic children's story Storm Boy, winning for him the first Visual Arts Board award for children's book illustration. He won the international Hans Christian Anderson Medal for children's literature in 1986, and the Dromkeen Medal in 1989.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 9141. Original consignment

Comprises personal papers and artwork created by Ingpen in the course of his illustrating and writing career and through his involvement in various organisations. Aspects of Ingpen's work reflected in the papers include designing books, murals, postage stamps, posters and publicity brochures. Ingpen's long association with the establishment and operation of the Swan Hill Pioneer Village is also well documented. The papers include correspondence, design proposals, consultant reports, drafts of publications and talks, exhibition catalogues and newspaper cuttings.

Contained in 17 boxes, 4 phase boxes.

Series 1. General Correspondence, 1966-95

The correspondence is with friends, collaborators, publishers and agents, clients and community organisations, and includes invitations and thank-you letters. The announcement and letter of congratulations on Ingpen's Hans Christian Anderson Award, from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), is in this series, together with his acceptance speech. Correspondents include Patricia Wrightson, Geoffrey Dutton, Dick Smith, G.L. Kesteven, Louis Lothian, Ena Noel, Maurice Saxby, Colin Thiele and Faith Bandler. Other publishers' correspondence is in series 2 and 3.

1966-79 (File 1) - Box 1
1980-82 (File 2) - Box 1
1983 (File 3) - Box 1
1984-85 (File 4) - Box 1
1986 (File 5) - Box 1
Hans Christian Anderson Award, 1986 (File 6) - Box 1
1987 (File 7) - Box 1
1988, 89 (File 8) - Box 1
1990-95 (File 9) - Box 1
Undated (File 10) - Box 1

Series 2. Papers relating to work as illustrator and writer, 1976-94

The files in this series are arranged alphabetically by book title. The books have been either illustrated by Ingpen, or written and illustrated by him. The files consist mainly of correspondence with publishers, but also included are annotated typescripts, schedules, layouts and mock-ups. Publishers include Lothian Books, Hill of Content Publishing, David Bateman Ltd, Dragon's World Limited and Century Hutchinson.

At the end of the series are books without files or accompanying material. They are mainly mock-ups or partial layouts of books.

Titles include- A Christmas Tree; The dream keeper (photocopy);'Invention in Australia'; Lincoln's Place; Paradise and beyond; Peacetimes; 'Pioneers of wine'; Treasure Island; Surprise and enterprise: fifty years of science for Australia (published copy, 1976); Turning points in the making of Australia; The unchosen land; Worldly dogs.
Age of acorns, 1988 (File 1) - Box 2
Australian gnomes (1979) - annotated typescript only (File 2) - Box 2
A celebration of customs and rituals of the world, 1994 (File 3) - Box 2
Conservation: A thoughtful way of explaining conservation to children (File 4) - Box 2
Folk tales and fables of the world, 1987 (File 5) - Box 2
'Great buildings of Australia' (File 6) - Box 2
'Industrial Australia' (File 7) - Box 3, Phase Box 5
Lifetimes: a beautiful way to explain death to children, 1983 (File 8) - Box 3
Marking time - Australia's abandoned buildings, 1983 (File 9) - Box 3
Encyclopedia of mysterious places: the life and legends of ancient sites..., 1990 (File 10) - Box 3
The Nargun and the stars, 1988 (File 11) - Box 3
'Pictorial Atlas of Australian Industry' (File 12) - Box 3
'Pioneer life in Australia' (File 13) - Box 3
The voyage of the Poppykettle, 1980 (File 14) - Box 3
UNICEF. 'Gluckliche Kinder' (File 15)
Encyclopedia of world events: eighty turning points in history, 1991 (File 16)
Mock-ups (File [unnumbered]) - Box 4, 5

Series 3. Papers relating to artwork commissions other than books, 1974-88

Ingpen was commissioned as designer and artist for murals, brochures, posters, stamps, flags, coats of arms, emblems, logos, medals, heritage centres and holiday villages. He also provided many concept and consultant reports.

Murals include the Sir Ian Clunies Ross Memorial Mural at Clunies Ross House, Melbourne, depicting aspects of the life and work of Sir Ian Clunies Ross; the entry foyer of the Conrad International Hotel and Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast; the entrance doors commemorating the 150th anniversary (1988) of the founding of the Melbourne Cricket Club - the 7 bronzed doors feature some of the legendary moments of MCC life; and murals for Geelong's Commercial Bank (1976) and Water Trust (1977). Ingpen worked with the United Nations in Mexico and Peru as Consultant Expert for their Development Program in relation to fisheries and agriculture.

Papers in this series include correspondence, plans, information sheets, invitations, accounts, layouts and newspaper clippings.

AAT (Australian Accommodation Tours) (File 1) - Box 6
Australian Holiday Village (File 2) - Box 6
Australian Maritime College emblem (File 3) - Box 6
Clunies Ross Memorial Mural (File 4) - Box 6
Dromkeen medal (File 5) - Box 6

Dromkeen Tree House

Game stamp, 1974; other stamps (File 6) - Box 6

Geelong Commercial Bank of Australia, 1976

Geelong Water Trust, 1977

Geelong City Hall (booklet only)

Jupiters Casino, 1985-86 (File 7) - Box 6
National Conservation Strategy poster series (File 8) - Box 6

National Wool Centre, Geelong (concept report)

Melbourne Cricket Club (File 9) - Box 7
Northern Territory flag and Coat of Arms, 1977-79 (File 10) - Box 7
Peppin Heritage Centre, Australian Sheep and Wool Centre, Deniliquin (4 folders) (File 11) - Box 7
United Nations (Peru and Mexico), 1974-75 (File 12) - Box 7
Werribee Fauna Park, 1977-78 (File 13) - Box 7

Series 4. Artwork

The artwork series consists of numbered and unnumbered original artwork, sketchbooks and ephemeral material.

The unnumbered artwork (Item 1) consists of 44 preparatory sketches for various publications. Many of the sketches are signed.

The sketchbooks (Item 2) have mostly very rough pencil sketches, some watercolour, with notes and jottings. (9 sketchbooks)

The numbered artwork (Items 3-36), in the main signed and dated watercolours, is for publications, murals and commissions.

The ephemeral material (Item 37) includes photographs of Robert Ingpen working on murals and other projects, photographs and slides of finished murals and other projects, xeroxed plans for Swan Hill Folk Museum and posters.

Unnumbered original artwork (Item 1) - Folio-Box 1
Sketchbooks (Item 2) - Box 8
Designs for Australian Holiday Village, watercolour, 1973, 3 sheets each approx 30x30cm (Item 3) - Folio-Box 2
Design for Kallis and France project, watercolour, 1977, 34x47cm (Item 4) - Folio-Box 2
Seagull, colour pastel, 1967, 50.4x75cm (Item 5) - Folio-Box 2, 3 + a Map-Folio

Map drawer 45

Design for Australian gnomes, water colour, 32x38cm, unfinished (Item 6) - Folio-Box 2
'Backwater Bessie', design for River Murray Mary, watercolour, 13.4x47.8cm (Item 7) - Folio-Box 2
All Saints Winery, watercolour, 13.4x47.8cm (Item 8) - Folio-Box 2
Marea, watercolour, pen and ink, 1971, 30x49.8cm (Item 9) - Folio-Box 2
Mexico City, watercolour, 1969, 38.2x56cm (Item 10) - Folio-Box 2
Design for the Sea King's Palace, in the Encyclopaedia of things that never were, watercolour, 23x22.8cm (Item 11) - Folio-Box 2
Sketch for unidentified publication, watercolour, 1980, 23x28cm (Item 12) - Folio-Box 2
Sketch for unidentified publication (mining town), watercolour, pen and ink, 19x45.6cm (Item 13) - Folio-Box 2
Sketch for unidentified publication, watercolour, 1980, 30.4x25cm (Item 14) - Folio-Box 2
Small coastal town, watercolour, 1966, 37.8x46.2cm (Item 15) - Folio-Box 2
Small coastal town, watercolour, pen and ink,1966, 34.4x48.6cm (Item 16) - Folio-Box 2
Design for Treasure Island, 1981, watercolour, 27.4x40.8cm (Item 17) - Folio-Box 2
Study for Geelong Water Trust mural, watercolour over photocopy, 20x46.6cm (Item 18) - Folio-Box 2
Design for unidentified project, watercolour, 25x34.6cm (Item 19) - Folio-Box 2
East Melbourne, 2 watercolours, pen and ink, 1969 (Item 20) - Folio-Box 2
Design for a mural, watercolour over reproduction, 20.2x46.6cm (Item 21) - Folio-Box 2
Country Scene, water colour, pen and ink, 1966 (Item 22) - Folio-Box 2
Buckley Falls, watercolour, pen and ink, 1970, 30x40cm (Item 23) - Folio-Box 2
Bedana Island, watercolour, pen and ink, 25.2x53.6cm (Item 24) - Folio-Box 2
Mocks-ups for Colonial South Australia, watercolours, 1985, approx 3x5cm each (Item 25) - Folio-Box 2
Mock-ups for Encyclopaedia of mysterious places, watercolours, approx 30.6x46.4cm each (Item 26) - Folio-Box 2
Sketchbook with preparatory drawings for Lifetimes, and other projects, watercolour, pen, ink and pencil, 21.2x30cm (Item 27) - Box 8
Mock-up fo Religious Worlds, watercolour, each approx 19x19cm (Item 28) - Box 8
Scarecrow, watercolour, 21x21.6cm (Item 29) - Folio-Box 2
Rainbow Serpent, watercolour, 10.2x20.8cm (Item 30) - Folio-Box 2
Mock-up for Careers in Marine Science, watercolour, coloured pencil, 24.8x19.4cm (Item 31) - Box 8
'The living dream, the dreaming life', pencil, 21x28.4cm (Item 32) - Folio-Box 2
Sketchbook page with sketches of people, pen and ink, pencil, 21x29.6cm (Item 33) - Folio-Box 2
Five designs for CSIRO medals, watercolour, 1985 (Item 34) - Box 8
Mock-up for Australian Pioneer Settlement poster, watercolour, 41.5x90.8cm (Item 35) - Box 8
Design for mural, watercolour, pen and ink, 9.5x43cm (Item 36) - Box 8
Ephemeral material (Item 37) - Folio-Box 4

Series 5. Talks and interviews

Ingpen gave talks and papers and wrote articles on many topics. He was invited to give the opening address at Children's Book Week, to speak at the Conference on Youth Literature, 1985, to the CSIRO Society for Ingestion and Pontification, and at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Seminar to celebrate the 1986 Hans Christian Anderson Awards.

Some of the titles include 'Looking for Clancy', 'Watching for the Wobyang - the fact and fantasy of Peruvian settlement in Australia in the 16th century', 'An Australian illustrator speaks', 'The promise of imagination', 'Into the forest', 'A system for the quantitative rating of National Trust and other interesting buildings', 'Imprints', 'Between the path and the forest - entering the world of fantasy', and 'Imagination and celebration'.

Also in this series is an interview with Ingpen after he won the Hans Christian Anderson Award, an interview about his imaginative work, and a transcript of a conversation on cassette between G. L. Kesteven and Ingpen on a new project.

Talks and interviews (File 1_3) - Box 8

Series 6. Swan Hill Pioneer Village, 1961-78

Ingpen was the Pioneer Settlement's consultant advisor. The files on the operation of the Swan Hill Pioneer Village document in detail the establishment and operation of the first of a number of open-air museums.

The series includes five boxes of chronological folders (1961-78) with transcriptions of newspaper reports, publicity photographs, minutes and reports of meetings and cuttings. The documentation was copied from the minutes of the organising committee and from reports in local and state newspapers.

Also in the series are photographs of the village, constitutions in the 1960s, an agreement with Rigby, 1972, giving the publishing company sole right to print and publish books under the imprint 'Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement', papers of the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement Authority, and the research material of Merrill Taylor who was writing a history of the Pioneer Settlement.

1961-65 (File 1_4) - Box 9
1966-69 (File 5_8) - Box 10
1970-73 (File 9_12) - Box 11
1974-77 (File 13_16) - Box 12
1976-78 (File 17_18) - Box 13
Constitutions, 1960s (File 19_20) - Box 14
Annual reports, 1971-76 (File 21) - Box 14
Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement Authority, 1968-80 (File 22) - Box 14
Rigby, 1972 (File 23) - Box 14
Research material, Merrill Taylor (File 24_26) - Box 14, 15
Photographs (File 27_28) - Box 15

Series 7. Exhibition catalogues, 1974-92

The first major exhibition of Ingpen's work, covering 30 years, was held at the Geelong Art Gallery in 1988. The earliest catalogue in the series is for an exhibition of drawings organised by The Geelong Women's Group of the National Trust of Victoria in 1974. Catalogues include exhibitions of original paintings for Lincoln Place, Marking Time, Out of this world - the complete book of fantasy, Turning Points, Treasure Island and The making of Australians. The file includes a small amount of correspondence and newspaper articles.

Exhibition catalogues (File 1) - Box 15

Series 8. Newspaper clippings, 1968-86

The clippings include book reviews, publicity material and articles about Ingpen, his books, commissions, conservation and heritage interests.

Books reviewed include The idle bear, Australian gnomes, Marking time: Australia's abandoned buildings, Storm Boy, Out of this world: the complete book of fantasy, and Encyclopaedia of things that never were.

Newspaper clippings (File 1_3) - Box 16

Series 9. Photographs

The series includes photographs of the Ian Clunies Ross Memorial Mural at the National Science Centre, Melbourne, opened by Prince Philip; the opening of the Commercial Bank at Geelong, 1976, and the mural by Ingpen; the Land Research fresco; family photographs and many unidentified photographs.

Photographs (File 1_2) - Box 16 + Folio-Box 5

Series 10. Miscellaneous

The series includes biographical information on Ingpen and articles about him, a catalogue of his publications, articles collected by Ingpen, and other miscellaneous items.

Photographs (File 1_4) - Box 17

Class Acc12.139. Consignment added 2012

Comprises a typescript chapter draft and chapter breakdown of book titled "Soldier" by Michael Page; hand-drawn concept map; and, a letter from Kit Denton to Ingpen regarding illustrations for "Soldier" dated 29 January, 1980.

Contained in 1 packet.

Class MS Acc18.123. Consignment added August 2018

The consignment comprises five watercolour works, one work featuring preliminary sketches for six of the seven panels of 'The Magic Bookcase' mural by Ingpen, plus four other watercolour studies.

Watercolour (Item) - Map-Folio 1 (MS Acc18.123)

Watercolour (Item) - Map-Folio 1 (MS Acc18.123)

Watercolour (Item) - Map-Folio 1 (MS Acc18.123)

Watercolour (Item) - Map-Folio 1 (MS Acc18.123)

Watercolour (Item) - Map-Folio 1 (MS Acc18.123)

Class MS Acc18.148. Consignment added November 2018

This accession comprises Ingpen's mural 'The Magic Bookcase', in 7 panels (90cm x 122cm each, egg tempera on wood). The mural depicts a compilation of characters including Alice in Wonderland, Peter Rabbit, Captain Hook, Toad, Pinocchio, the Tin Man, The Magic Pudding and the artist's own creations from The Voyage of the Poppykettle. The original packing case has also been retained as part of this accession.

The mural was on display in 2018 as part of 'Reimagine - the world according to children's books' at Geelong Art Gallery.

'The Magic Bookcase' (Item) - Piece 1-8 (MS Acc18.148)