Large collection of textiles, objects, photographs, publications, press clippings, and ephemera relating to the life of Dr. Frances Mary Burke (1907-1994).
Dr. Frances Mary Burke (1907 - 1994), textile designer and printer, businesswoman, artist and Australian design advocate and retailer.
In the field of Australian design Frances Burke holds a pre-eminent place as a designer, design activist and business woman. She is best known for her mid-century modern textile designs and as an enterprising retailer of modernist furnishings. Burke studied to be an artist, initially attending evening classes at the National Gallery Art School in 1930, and subsequently enrolling in the General Art Course at the Melbourne Technical College (now RMIT University) in 1932. After a break in 1935, Burke studied full-time in 1936 on a bursary. From 1936 to 1938 she also studied under the painter George Bell at his school.
Burke began designing fabrics for Georges, while still a student. In 1937 she founded Burway Prints (fabric prints) with fellow Technical College graduate Maurice Holloway. Burke was the designer, and Holloway the printer. It was Australia’s first registered textile screen printery. In 1942 Burke established a new firm Frances Burke Fabrics Pty Ltd. She opened her shop NEW Design Pty Ltd in 1948 in Melbourne, and this survived in a variety of locations until 1967. Burke sold furnishings, fabrics, and domestic utensils designed in a modernist style. She received many important commissions including Sir Reginald Ansett’s Hayman Island Resort, Australian embassies in Washington and Paris, as well as hospitals in Metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. Frances Burke was awarded a MBE (1970) and an Honorary Doctorate (RMIT) in 1987 in recognition of her seminal and continuing influence on Australian design.
In 1994, on the occasion of Burke’s death, her life-long companion Miss Fabie (Frances Mary) Chamberlain (died 2005) donated the contents of Burke’s studio to RMIT University.
The Frances Burke collection is the result of numerous donations. There is a combined inventory available. The largest single donation is held in accession lot 0024.0011. This is organised into categories such as textiles, artworks, photographs, news-clippings, certificates awards, ephemera, publications, correspondence, silkscreens, and magazines.