Dr Paul Paffen

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Paul Paffen, PhD, is a Melbourne based Australian art historian/writer.

Born in Carlton, Paffen spent his musical childhood and most of his teenage years in country Victoria before returning to Melbourne, aged 17, to commence undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne. His first degree was a Bachelor of Music.

After a time working in corporate business, Paffen returned to tertiary studies majoring in Fine Art subjects leading to a Postgraduate Diploma in Curatorial Studies at the University of Melbourne. As Dux of his Diploma year Paffen was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Research Award and a Travel Grant to continue his studies in the UK and Europe. He remains an inveterate traveller.

His doctoral thesis, The Art of Memory: Portraiture in Van Diemen's Land (4 vols, 1998), conferred by the University of Melbourne in 1999, focusses upon the imminence of memory in numerous interpretations of Tasmanian colonial portraiture.

A two volume detailed catalogue raisonné of all the known colonial Tasmanian portraits was submitted with his thesis. Examined by Professors Joan Kerr and Michael Roe, Paffen's dissertation was awarded first class honours requiring no corrections or amendments. It was nominated for the Vice-Chancellor's award for a thesis of excellence. Chapters of his thesis have been published in article form (see publications).

In 1999 Paffen was appointed a Fellow of the School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology, University of Melbourne; and in 2004 a Fellow of the School of Art History, Classics, Cinema and Archaeology, University of Melbourne.

For a number of years Paffen lectured on non-indigenous Australian art, from white settlement to around the 1950s, in the School of Art History, Classics, Cinema and Archaeology, University of Melbourne. He also supervised theses of undergraduate and postgraduate students, many of whom are today well placed in the world of art both in Australia and abroad.

Paffen was also employed as the Senior Research Assistant to the Herald Chair of Fine Art, working on an Australian Research Council funded project examining the history of the National Gallery of Victoria. The project was titled: Patrimony exemplified by the History of the multicultural collections at the National Gallery of Victoria (1850-2000). He composed a detailed manuscript that reconstructs Lindsay Bernard Hall’s (1867-1935) activities abroad in 1905 when purchasing art for the Felton Bequests' Committee.

Paffen is currently occupied with several major projects. In 2003 he commenced research to write Traillie: The art and life of Jessie C. A. Traill (1881-1967), a scholarly biography of Australia's finest etcher of the first half of the twentieth century, assembling a catalogue raisonné of Traill’s relatively rare prints.

In 2005 Paffen was awarded a State Library of Victoria Creative Fellowship 2005-6 for his project: War and Peace: H. Septimus Power, M. Napier Waller and their murals in the State Library of Victoria. The two large 1920s murals by these artists are located at the entry to Queens Hall, within the heart of the State Library of Victoria, the oldest cultural institution in Australia. Paffen’s research now has extended to include the artistry and lives of Harold Septimus Power (1877-1951) and Mervyn Napier Waller (1893-1972) and covers aspects of decorative painting in Australian art to showcase the Library’s murals.

Paul welcomes any information that can contribute to these projects. Please use the link to contact him.

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