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

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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
SEEN graffiti Wonder Woman  

Warner Bros’ bold stance on Wonder Woman opens the door for Hollywood evolution

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us