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Hoff, Ursula

    Image Credit: NGV

    Full Name: Hoff, Ursula

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1909

    Date Died: 2005

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): museums (institutions) and prints (visual works)

    Career(s): curators, directors (administrators), and museum directors


    Curator of prints and assistant director, National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. Hoff was the daughter of Hans Hoff, a pharmaceuticals salesperson and Thusnelde Hoff. Hoff studied at the newly founded University of Hamburg under Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl. Her doctoral thesis was on “Rembrandt and England.” Her Jewish background made her persona non grata after Hitler’s rise in 1933. That year she emigrated with her family to Hampstead, London. She studied (and tutored) at Girton College, Cambridge. There she met the Danish religious scholar Greta Hort (1903-1967). Hoff worked at the Warburg Institute after Cambridge, where many of the Hamburg-school art historians had fled. As full-time positions were restricted to British subjects, Hoff researched at the Warburg for Karl Theodore Parker and Hugh Popham of the British Museum on 16th-century prints and drawings. At Hort’s suggestion, Hoff followed her to the University of Melbourne in 1939 where Hort had become the first principal of Women’s College (now University College). However, the director of the National Gallery of Victoria, J. S. McDonald refused employment for German Jewish refugees in his museum. In 1942, Daryl Lindsay was named director, and he appointed Hoff as assistant keeper (curator) of prints and drawings. As keeper, Hoff built the collection to the internationally-know collection it is today. She bought widely including a series of 600 etchings known as “the van Dyck Iconography,” works on paper by Albrecht Dürer, Rubens, Sasetta and the Caraccis. In 1946, a school of fine arts was founded at the University of Melbourne and Hoff became a part-time lecturer and eventually senior associate. In 1949, Hoff was made keeper of prints and drawings. In 1968 she became assistant director of the Gallery. As assistant director, she was in charge of producing the gallery’s permanent holdings catalogs. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1970 for her work as assistant director of the National Gallery of Victoria. After retiring in 1973, became an advisor to the Felton Bequest, the great endowment of Alfred Felton with a mandate to make the gallery what Hoff once described as “the only encyclopedic art collection in Australia”. She remained an advisor until 1983. From 1985 she was senior associate for fine arts at the University of Melbourne. Her papers are housed at Baillieu Library Special Collections, University of Melbourne.

    Selected Bibliography

    Charles I, Patron of Artists. London: W. Collins, 1942; Catalogue of European Paintings before Eighteen Hundred. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1961; and McCulloch, Alan, and Lindsay, Joan. Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire, 1949; and Davies, Martin. The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Brussels: Centre national de recherches Primitifs Flamands,1971.


    Who’s Who in Australia 2001, p.877; Anderson, Jaynie. “Ursula Hoff: Intellectual Who left her Imprint.” The Australian January 20, 2005. p. 12; Palmer Bull, Sheridan. Intersections of Culture: European Influences in the Fine Arts, Melbourne, 1940-1960. Ph. D. thesis, University of Melbourne, 2001.


    "Hoff, Ursula." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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