The University of Western Australia

Henry Holiday Cartoons - Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone but not forgotten

Archival records are often the only evidence that something once existed, making them especially important when that something disappears into thin air…

Long before the organ was installed in Winthrop Hall, the area underneath the Rose Window was home to the Holiday Cartoons. Cartoons acted as proofs for stained glass designs, and these particular cartoons were created by pre-Raphaelite artist Henry Holiday, a contemporary of William Morris. The design was originally produced as a proof for a parish church window in Somerset. Purchased by Professor (later Sir) Walter Murdoch for £100 in 1927, the cartoons consisted of five canvas panels that stood 10 feet high and displayed an allegorical representation of the text, “and there was warfare in heaven.”

In 1963 the cartoons were removed to make way for the organ that graces Winthrop Hall today. A Senate resolution to sell them was deferred given their “historical and sentimental value”. However, in the years that followed, all trace of the cartoons was lost. Were it not for the records and photographs identified and preserved in the University Archives, we might never have known they existed at all.

Thankfully the cartoons were rediscovered by accident in 1999 (a little worse for wear) and painstakingly restored. They now reside in the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery where they will be looked after for many years to come.