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Oswald Rose Campbell

1820 - 1887

Born in Jersey, Channel Islands in 1820, artist Oswald Rose Campbell studied at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, the Royal Academy School in London, the Liverpool Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin. He exhibited twice with the Royal Academy, London, first in 1847 and again in 1848.

Campbell arrived in the COSSIPORE at Melbourne in October 1852, and moved to Sydney. While in Sydney, he completed a portrait of Mary Reibey (1855), John Portus (1860), 'Sydney Cove from Kirribilli' (1861); and a pencil sketch of gums at Richmond (1861). He returned to Melbourne in 1864 and settled first at East Melbourne and then at Woodend House, Punt Road, Windsor.

Campbell unsuccessfully applied for the post of drawing-master at the School of Design in the Melbourne National Gallery. He exhibited an oil painting in 1869 at the Melbourne Public Library, and in 1870 he became the first president of the newly-founded Victorian Academy of Arts, showing works in the Academy's first exhibition, and second exhibition in 1872. He retired as president but in December 1875 accepted a life membership and continued as an exhibitor until 1882. He also won an award for his pictures at the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1875.

On Thomas Clark's retirement, Campbell applied again for appointment as drawing-master at the School of Design. He was appointed on 1 December 1876 at a salary of £250. In his régime of nine years he appears to have been rather inflexible and dictatorial, following strict academic lines. In 1879-80 he was the central figure in a controversy over a life-class on Saturday afternoons organized by some of his students. Campbell wrote to the trustees on 20 June 1879 defending his teaching and asserting that his pupils were not yet ready for anything beyond drawing, anatomy, perspective and modelling, and that they abused the freedom granted to them. He was supported by the majority of his pupils, and their letters in praise of his teaching-methods seem to have reinstated him with the trustees, but the rebels won the right to have a life-class at which Campbell was expected to teach.

In 1882 Campbell was embroiled in another controversy at the gallery over fees, which students had to pay to him directly for his tutoring, and to the painting-master, George Folingsby, for his classes, instead of a general fee covering all tuition. By this time Campbell's health was beginning to fail; in January 1886 the trustees notified him that he was to be replaced. His successor was Frederick McCubbin. Campbell died at Woodend House, Punt Road, on 18 March 1887, aged 67 and was buried in the St Kilda cemetery. In England he had married Eleanor, née Scott. Of their nine children a son, Malcolm Alexander (1851-1889), became an artist, exhibited in the Victorian Academy in 1872-87 and served on its council in 1881-84.

Source: Ann E. Galbally, 'Campbell, Oswald Rose (1820 - 1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 346-347.