Obituary: Professor A. D. Trendall

Share
Related Topics
A. D. Trendall was one of the great classical art historians of this century.

He devoted virtually all his academic career to the study of figure-decorated South Italian vases of the 5th to 4th centuries BC. There are at least 20,300 of them, and to modern eyes they range from the garishly complex and kitsch to the banal, from exquisite draughtsmanship to what he fondly called "little horrors". But they are susceptible to close analysis in terms of painter hands, which makes possible the creation of the history of a prolific craft in the main colonial Greek centres, in Campania, Sicily, and especially Lucania and Apulia. Moreover their decoration includes a host of figure scenes of mythological events in which many scholars have seen close reflections of subjects of the contemporary theatre, of Athens especially, but which also record much that has escaped surviving texts.

Through Trendall's work this great corpus was effectively put in order, painters and workshops identified, dates assigned, and a basis laid for continuing studies on the various other aspects of antiquity illuminated by such evidence, which he also pursued with enthusiasm.

His technique of attribution was one already perfected by J.D. (Sir John) Beazley, working on the even more numerous Athenian vases of the 6th to 4th centuries BC. Beazley had more than once turned his eyes to the South Italian, but it was left to Trendall to complete the task which called for skills of perception and visual memory commanded by very few archaeologists of any generation.

Both Beazley's and Trendall's work demanded a lifetime of dedication, decidedly one-man projects that could never have been effected by a team or even machines. The result was a series of massive books with lists, but also, unlike Beazley's, with close explanations of the criteria for identification, and rich illustration. And the books were followed by a long series of Supplements, since this is a subject for which new material, from excavations (legal and otherwise), was constantly forthcoming.

Arthur Dale Trendall was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1909, and educated at Cambridge, where he was a Fellow of Trinity from 1936 to 1940, but returned south to the Chair in Greek at Sydney University, which he held until 1954; and thence to Canberra as Master of University House in the Australian National University to 1969, and as its Deputy Vice- Chancellor for six years. His last years were spent as Resident Fellow at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

He had a profound effect on the development of Classical studies in Australia. In his universities he was an able administrator and man of affairs: the other side to a life of dedicated and disciplined scholarship, acknowledged by Fellowship of many Academies world-wide, medals, honorary doctorates, and award of Companionship of the Order of Australia and the CMG.

Such dedication and scholarship, however worthy, may sound dry and soul- destroying. Dale Trendall carried it all with modesty and considerable wit. His company and conversation shimmered with his delight in his work and in the world around him. He knew (as academics have to) the cheapest hotel most convenient for work in the Louvre and Bibliotheque Nationale. His knowledge of the contents of the cellars of many a museum in Italy probably rivalled that of their curators.

When Trendall was not working through mountains of proofs he revealed himself as a man of deep culture, observer of life and raconteur. His almost impish delight in work and people, and his readiness to sacrifice even comfort to scholarship, endeared him to everyone, not least to students who always found him a ready listener.

He belonged to a generation of scholars now almost extinct, who valued the truth above show. His standards were old-fashioned - he always answered letters, courteously and at length. Time and again he would say he was getting tired and that the next re-edition or Supplement would be the last, but still they came, until failing sight and health put an end to a career and an achievement which can never be outdated, nor need to be reworked.

John Boardman

Arthur Dale Trendall, classical art historian: born Auckland, New Zealand 28 March 1909; Fellow, Trinity College Cambridge 1936-40; Librarian, British School at Rome 1936-38; FSA 1939; Professor of Greek, University of Sydney 1939-54 (Emeritus), Dean of Faculty of Arts 1947-50, Chairman, Professorial Board 1949-50, 1952, Acting Vice-Chancellor 1953; Master of University House, ANU 1954-69, Deputy Vice-Chancellor 1958-64, Honorary Fellow 1969; CMG 1961; Geddes-Harrower Professor of Greek Art and Archaeology, Aberdeen University 1966-67; Chairman, Australian Humanities Research Council 1957- 59; Resident Fellow, Menzies College, La Trobe University 1969-95; AC 1976; books include Paestan Pottery 1936 (Supplement 1952, Addenda 1960), The Red- figured Vases of Lucania, Campania and Sicily 1967 (Supplements I 1970, II 1973, III 1983), Illustrations of Greek Drama (with T.B.L. Webster) 1971, The Red-figured Vases of Apulia 1978-82 (with A. Cambitoglou; Supplements I 1983, II 1991-92), The Red-figured Vases of Paestum 1987, Greek Red- figured Fish-plates 1987; died Melbourne, Australia 13 November 1995.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss