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In Memoriam: Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AC DBE


The Australian Tapestry Workshop staff, board, and supporters and the Tapestry Foundation of Australia are deeply saddened by the passing of its longtime patron Dame Elisabeth Murdoch AC DBE, the driving force behind the Workshop’s establishment and a tireless and enthusiastic promoter of its work.

In the early 1970s Dame Elisabeth, together with Lady Delacombe, wife of the then Governor, had the vision to create a workshop in Victoria where the traditional art of tapestry would be revived in a contemporary form. Her efforts led to the launching in 1976 of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop (now known as the Australian Tapestry Workshop) by Premier Rupert Hamer. It was, and remains, the only workshop of its kind in Australia and one of only a handful in the world.

Dame Elisabeth remained an active and inspiring presence at the Workshop, first as a Board member for over 20 years, including a term as Chair, and then as a Trustee of the Tapestry Foundation of Victoria (now known as the Tapestry Foundation of Australia), created to support the Workshop and the art of contemporary tapestry.

Tapestries supported by Dame Elisabeth are now on display in many major public buildings where they are seen by millions of people every year. These include five of the six tapestries designed by Roger Kemp that are displayed in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria. Two major tapestries that were close to her heart, touching on some of her other great passions, were those at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Melbourne Recital Centre.

In 2000, Dame Elisabeth was herself the subject of a tapestry, commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery (Canberra). Featuring a half-length portrait set against the backdrop of her beloved garden at Cruden Farm, this tapestry remains one of the most popular works at the Gallery.

Dame Elisabeth’s personal encouragement and generous funding has inspired and supported hundreds of artists and weavers, and she will be truly missed.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Dame Elisabeth’s daughter Janet Calvert-Jones, current Chair of the Tapestry Foundation of Australia, and her family, as well as the Handbury, Kantor and Murdoch families.

(Photos of tapestries in situ at Melbourne Recital Centre and NGV by John Gollings)

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