Interning at the Baillieu: Print Collection Research Assistant

Snapshot interview with Research Assistant, Rembrandt etchings intern and Melbourne University student Ada Coxall, who is currently researching information about prints that are going to feature in a 2019 exhibition in the Noel Shaw Gallery.

Ada Coxall, Research Assistant, Rembrandt etchings
Ada Coxall, Research Assistant, Rembrandt etchings

Can you tell me a little bit about your role at the library?

Mostly, I would compare the role I have within the library to that of an archaeologist, except that the majority of the information that I am unearthing occurs through books, articles and museums. As a researcher of Rembrandt’s etchings, my job is to explore, to follow what is particularly striking – or in some instances what is confusing – about a print and see what I can discover.

What information are you looking for in your research?

As the academic culture around Rembrandt and his prints is so vast, I am attempting to find the significance of the specific prints held by the Baillieu in relation to the hundreds of collections worldwide. The smallest detail in a print can be telling, and I have in many instances whipped out a magnifying glass to get as close as I can to the image. The mouth of a shouting man being pulled by a cow, for instance, can indicate to me whether the print was actually made in Rembrandt’s lifetime or was printed posthumously, significantly affecting the overall value of the print.

What will be your contribution to the exhibition?

I hope to provide certain little windows into the world of the Rembrandt, showing just how significant his works have been for centuries after his death. I will provide some text for those viewing the exhibition to ponder over as they view the works on display. I hope in certain instances to get people thinking why such images – reproducible images no less – have held the fascination of the public for so long, and how they have maintained their significance.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve found so far?

Many things jump out at me in answer to this question. I think, though, that the most interesting aspect for me has been reading volume after volume of intricate, detailed analysis of Rembrandt’s life and works. I have barely scratched the surface in my own analysis. I am in awe of these academics that have dedicated their whole lives to the detailed exploration of a particular topic. I respect researchers all the more for this, as they bring a whole new level to the concept of finding what you love and following it. They don’t just follow, they pursue.

What do you hope to gain from this internship?

Flashback to my interview for this role! Well I like to hope that in the course of this internship my research abilities have been refined (though I definitely have a lot more to learn!) I also hope to leave with the sense that I have discovered something, and that I can share my discoveries with those who they might interest.

What are you doing with yourself apart from volunteering with the Print Collection?

I’m currently completing a double major in Art History and English literature. I also work at the Ian Potter Museum of Art on campus.

What do you hope to do once you’re finished with university?

I hope to find work in the Art History field, although in what capacity I am still unsure of. I think as long as I’m always learning new things and building on my interests in whatever I end up doing, I will be content.

Favourite artist: Too many to name!
Favourite artwork: Again, so difficult! One that stands out to me: Untitled (One hundred Spaces), Rachel Whiteread (1995)
Hobbies: Reading and writing, climbing, quenching wanderlust.
Dream job: Curator/Researcher


2 Responses to “Interning at the Baillieu: Print Collection Research Assistant”

  1. Tanya Wilson says:

    Lovely article. I am very interested in the fact that your favourite artwork listed is Untitled (One hundred Spaces), Rachel Whiteread (1995). This is so very different to Rembrandt. Can you explain a little more about that? I am fascinated as I know so little about modern art. Thank you

    1. kjstone says:

      Thank you for your kind response! My apologies for not getting back to you sooner, has been quite the hectic few weeks. I definitely see that in the context my work with the Rembrandt prints, my choice to reference Whiteread as one of my favourite artists would hint at quite a contrast – even a conflict – between a love of the works of an ‘Old Master’ and an appreciation for the work of someone so eminent on the contemporary art scene. I suppose when asked who my favourite artist is, many names and works flitted across my mind, naturally including Rembrandt himself (who I am of course a big fan of), however, I nonetheless ended up on Whiteread.

      I suppose if I was to define my thought process behind this, I wouldn’t say it was a conscious privileging of contemporary work over 17th century work, actually far from it. Instead, I was recognising a residual feeling which I still held from seeing works by her almost a year before, in particular the specific work I mentioned. The work took up one of the large hallway/gallery spaces of the Tate Britain, where sat a large collection of resin sculptures which had been crafted by casting the empty space under multiple types of chair (don’t ask me how exactly this was done, she is quite the wizard with medium.) The work took up both a large physical space, and also a conceptual space, as you realise on looking at the sculptures that what you are seeing are not the ‘chairs’ but the actual absence of the chairs. The way she was able to dominate a space with what is essentially an absence, still astounds me today. Recognising Whiteread as one of my favourite artists is thus an extension of how I also appreciate Rembrandt’s prints and works, through a belief that art should resound with you, even if it does so in different ways. Rembrandt’s prints resound with me, as do Whiteread’s contemporary works, yet they do so on different frequencies.

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