Educated at the universities of London and Yale, Joseph Burke (1913-1992) had been Assistant Keeper at the Victoria and Albert Museum and had spent the war years on secondment to the Home Office before being appointed Herald Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne in May 1946, initially for three years. He held the post from 1947 until retirement in 1979. On giving the money to found the Herald Chair in September 1945 (after a September 1944 endowment for Fine Arts study) Keith Murdoch wrote that it should be "for teaching the understanding and appreciation of the fine arts and the application of their principles and practice to the life of the community".

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