Saturday, 9 November 2013

Thomas Dean (1857-1947): artist and railway worker


Sydney based railway fettler and amateur oil painter with an art career lasting over sixty years. Dean was a regular exhibitor with the (Royal) Art Society of New South Wales from 1893, and after his retirement from the NSW Government Railway devoted most of his spare time to painting and photography. He is best known for his oil portraits of women, pastoral landscapes and still life subjects.

Thomas Dean with one of his Archibald Prize entries

Railway fettler and prolific landscape and portrait painter. The son of William Dean and Harriet née Harrison, Thomas Dean was born in the English Midland’s county of Staffordshire on 28 July 1857. After leaving school he worked as a coal miner like his father had before him. Dean and his wife Jane Smith sailed to Australia on the Commonwealth, arriving in Sydney in June or July 1877. 

Upon arrival, Dean travelled to Greta, near Maitland, where he joined the New South Wales Government Railway (NSWGR) working as a fettler (railway labourer). After a year in Muswellbrook, he and his wife lived for eight years at Breeza, New South Wales. During his early years in Australia, Dean took up photography and processed his images himself. While working as a fettler in northern New South Wales he became friends with an itinerant painter and, according to family sources, the two shared their skills in painting and photography.

By the early 1880s Dean was painting oils, such as his 1881 Portrait in White Hat. By the late 1880s Thomas and Jane were living in the southern Sydney suburb of Kogarah. Jane sometimes modelled for him, but after she had a brief love affair with another man in the early 1890s the relationship was abruptly ended and the childless couple later divorced.

The light beyond [1921], oil by Thomas Dean

While his railway work commitments would have taken up much of his time, Dean persevered with his painting and by the 1890s he began exhibiting his oils with the Art Society of NSW. Although based in Kogarah, Dean often travelled around New South Wales working on railway construction projects. While on these trips he painted landscapes in his spare time but, inexplicably, did not paint railway subjects.

Dean’s exhibiting debut was at the annual spring exhibition of the Art Society of New South Wales in 1893, where he showed two works, Tempe and A Study. Over the next thirty years he became a regular exhibitor at most of their spring exhibitions. Much of his art reflected the low-keyed sentimental taste of the late nineteenth century, and his landscapes show the clear influence of the Art Society president, William Lister Lister.

During the early years of the twentieth century Dean painted several large panoramic landscapes of northern New South Wales. One of these works was exhibited at the 1903 Royal Art Society of NSW (RAS) annual exhibition. This oil was favourably mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald review of the exhibition: 'Mr. T. Dean is to be congratulated upon his large oil painting, On the Cattle Camp, Liverpool Plains, (No. 124), spacious and spirited, though stockmen are not generally so well mounted, nor their horns so well groomed.’ (12 September 1903).

For the 1906 RAS annual exhibition Dean had three works accepted for hanging. The Sydney Morning Herald critic commented on one of his oils depicting northern New South Wales in his review of the exhibition:

Mr. T. Dean contributes a large and important work in The Valley of the Tweed (No. 39), the pale, rather weak, tone throughout which is no doubt employed to achieve the effect of dreamy solitude in the immeasurable vastness of the pastoral scene. The foreground is occupied by an almost circular sweep of the placid stream, and mountains rear their heads in the pale distance. This artist, who is an artist of talent, employed on the railway, is also responsible for The Rose (No. 88), a charming portrait of a girl smelling that fragrant flower. (25 August 1906).

According to Nancy Bishop, the artist’s great-grand-niece, Dean was a well built man with few vices, who loved music and enjoyed reading and writing poetry. One 1858 Longfellow poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish, inspired Dean to create The Wedding Day – John Alden & Priscilla (1907). This large gallery-sized work is Dean’s only known pastel, but the quality of the image suggests that Dean must have produced several other works in this medium.

After his retirement from the NSWGR in the early 1920s, Dean moved to a house at 63 Ocean Street, Kogarah, where he lived with relatives and had his own studio. From that time onward he devoted most of his time to his painting. In retirement he rarely exhibited with the RAS and seems to have concentrated mainly on private portrait commissions as well as submitting work to the competitions organised by the National Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Dean’s first Archibald Prize entry was a portrait of his niece, Emily Lowbridge, which he exhibited in early 1925. In 1930 he exhibited a portrait of Miss Haidee Saunders, who was described by Dean on his statutory declaration as a 'ladies beauty artist of Kogarah’. For the 1931 exhibition he submitted another portrait of Emily Lowbridge. Dean’s final Archibald exhibit in 1939 was a self portrait.

During the 1920s, Dean decided to visit his relatives overseas. In 1925 he travelled to his homeland and while there he sketched and painted. Two years later he travelled to North America, and painted several works including a view of the Grand Canyon and a picture of a sailing boat. This later work was presented to the Scouts movement in Pasadena, California. The gift warranted a front page illustrated article about Dean in the Pasadena Star-News (2 June 1927).

As well as his overseas travels, Dean visited other parts of Australia including Adelaide and Melbourne. During these tours he visited the principal art galleries and took detailed technical notes on works that appealed to him. Dean seems to have been a self-taught artist who relied on sketches and photographs to complete his studio works. Many of his surviving drawings in family ownership show that despite his lack of formal training he was a competent draughtsman.

An Adelaide park study from the artist's sketchbook

Images of women were the principal subject in most of Dean’s known portraits. While his wife was used as an early model, Dean later used other women as his main subjects. The four Traves sisters, who lived in Kogarah, were popular artist’s models for Dean during the later years of his career. One of the Traves posed for his large religious work, The Light Beyond (1910).

As well as portraits and landscapes, Dean also enjoyed painting flowers and gardens. Floral portraits included roses, dahlias, frangipanis and rhododendrons. Native plants with nationalistic associations such as wattle, waratah and flannel flowers were also used in his work. Parks and gardens also feature in many of his paintings, as in his 1920 view of the wisteria display at Vaucluse House, Sydney.

Although his Archibald Prize days were over, Dean was a regular exhibitor in the Wynne and Sulman competitions during World War II. His last exhibited work was his 1945 View from Art Gallery, which was exhibited at the Wynne exhibition in early 1946.

After an art career lasting approximately sixty years, the eighty-eight year old Dean held his first solo exhibition at Anthony Horderns’ Fine Art Gallery, Sydney, from 11 to 27 April 1946. The Easter exhibition received little attention in the press apart from two brief reviews. The Sydney Morning Herald's stridently pro-modernist art critic, Paul Haefliger, was dismissive of Dean’s old fashioned display in his review published on 10 April 1946:

These works belong entirely to the Victorian era, and like their spiritual progenitors, their idea of beauty lies mainly in the “beautiful subject” of characteristic pattern – ladies recumbent, ladies tender, and ladies with garlands. There are also many landscapes exuding a similar aroma.

A more sympathetic review came from 'WEP’ (William Edwin Pidgeon) writing in the Daily Telegraph of 10 April 1946:

This is real old-time drawing-room art. Dean has been painting for more than 50 years, and has never lost the characteristic touch. These pictures will not excite the doter on the modern medium but will be apple-pie for the lover of the sentimental. Some early landscapes will surprise, particularly ‘Coromandel Valley.

Ninety-year-old Thomas Dean died of pneumonia at his Kogarah home on Sunday 23 November 1947. He was buried in Woronora General Cemetery in Sutherland two days later. Dean had invested the proceeds of his painting wisely and when he died he owned several properties in the Kogarah area. Following his death his remaining work was divided among his near relatives.

In 1998 forty of his paintings, owned by brothers Geoffrey and Alan Hercules, were put up for sale with James R. Lawson in Sydney.



Images courtesy of the Dean family.

This Peer Reviewed article was first published on the Design and Art Australia Online website.
© Silas Clifford-Smith 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Raymond (Ray) Lindsay (1904-60), artist and critic

As well as being a fine cartoonist and an adept art critic, Raymond Lindsay is best known today as the creator of large scale history paintings in the style of his famous father, Norman Lindsay.


Ray Lindsay c.1947

Raymond Lindsay was the second child born to artist Norman Lindsay and his first wife Katherine Parkinson. He was most likely named after his maternal uncle who was a close friend of his father around the time of his birth. Ray, as he was known by his family and friends, spent his infancy living in Melbourne with his mother and brothers Jack and Philip. With the ending of his parents unhappy marriage, Ray’s mother relocated to Brisbane with her three young children, and it was there that he and his brothers were raised and educated. While older brother Jack was academically gifted, Ray was apparently only interested in painting during his youth. He finished his schooling near the end of the Great War and thanks to family contacts was soon working as a cadet journalist on the Brisbane Courier. Ray worked on the paper for several years until being sacked for writing a report of a council meeting which never took place.


While Ray and his brothers had been estranged from their father during most of their childhood they were reunited when they all relocated to Sydney in the early 1920s. Norman Lindsay was then at the peak of his artistic fame and Ray and his brothers were soon enchanted by his art and captivating personality. Norman encouraged his second son’s artistic ambitions and he soon enrolled at the Julian Ashton Art School (then located in the Queen Victoria Market building in Sydney). While studying at Ashton’s, Ray was inspired by the distinguished artist, George W. Lambert who briefly demonstrated figure painting at the school. Said Ray in an article for B.P. Magazine in June 1931: “Everything I know of painting I learnt from Lambert at a memorable demonstration given by the great artist on an occasion when he spent two days with the students at Ashton’s painting a portrait”
Although he had a great respect for Ashton in late life, Ray fell out with the elderly master’s teaching methods and quit the school. During the 1920s Ray lived a boozy bohemian life and associated with many of the colourful members of the Sydney art and literary scene including George Finey, Mick Paul, Elioth Gruner, Tom Hubble, Hugh McKay, Kenneth Slessor, Herman Lloyd Jones, Jack Quayle, and his uncle Percy Lindsay. Many of the highlights of these times were recalled in Philip Lindsay’s autobiography,  I’d live the same life over, and Ray’s own late life 'epistle’ to his brother Jack, which was later published after his death as, A letter from Sydney.
As an artist, Lindsay first became known as a black and white artist and illustrator during the 1920s, when he worked as a contributing artist on Aussie: The Colourful Monthly and the Sydney Sunday Sun. An example of his fine drawing style was a joke block published in the December 1925 issue of Aussie. This pen line illustration shows a masked cat-burglar, at work in an occupied bedroom. While the owner sleeps, the irritated thief looks at an alarm clock – “Not a thing worth taking. I’ll get even with him; I’ll set his alarm for four o’clock!” Like his father, and artistic uncles Lionel and Percy, Ray had a natural aptitude for black and white humour but didn’t pursue it during his later career. Although Ray’s views on his black and white work are unknown, his father discussed it in a 1960 letter to Jack Lindsay, not long after Ray’s death:
I tried to get Ray to tackle pen and ink seriously – he did some remarkably good pen drawings – really first class, but he disparaged them and never carried on with them… The truth is, Ray was damnably handicapped by having a parent who had already achieved some distinction in the art he also dedicated himself to. (Norman Lindsay, Letters of Norman Lindsay, p 551)
Ray – like his father – was interested in Australian historical subjects and pirate imagery, and these conceptual themes dominated his painting career. During the mid 1920s he studied at the Royal Art Society art school, in Sydney, and while there he painted several works inspired by the 1808 Rum Rebellion. One such painting, Major Johnson announcing the arrest of Governor Bligh was purchased by Dame Nellie Melba in 1928. This work was reproduced in the December 1928 issue of Art in Australia, and was later presented to the Geelong Art Gallery, Victoria. In May 1929 the Sydney Sun newspaper, in conjunction with the newly opened State Theatre, organised Australia’s first lucrative art competition, known as the £1,000 Art Quest. Like many other Sydney artists Ray submitted several works to the competition and despite not winning the lucrative £300 first prize, he was awarded a runner up award of £50 for his oil, Woe to the Vanquished. In the publicity for the announcement of the Art Quest winners the Sun newspaper wrote a short feature on the artist. In this report (7 May 1929), Ray revealed that Norman had given him little art direction:
'Raymond Lindsay, aged 25, and placed amongst the four 50 guinea prize-winners, said to-day that out of such a distinguished collection of work he felt highly honoured that the judges had recognised his efforts. “It will certainly be a great encouragement to me” he said. Raymond Lindsay is the son of Mr. Norman Lindsay “but I received little tuition from my father” he said, “father always advised me to go my own way, and learn for myself.” '
Ray’s solo debut as an artist began at Rubery Bennett’s Australian Fine Art Gallery in July 1929. Although there was some criticism of the draftsmanship in some of Ray’s exhibits, most reviewers praised the young painter’s premier. Despite the advent of the Depression, Ray held another exhibition in Melbourne in late 1930. This show was mainly of pirate themed pictures and was poorly received by the local critics. One of Ray’s later history paintings, Captain Cook at Botany Bay, was used as the cover for the June 1931 issue of B.P. Magazine. In the same issue there was a feature on the artist, written by Dora Payter, which included photographs of the artist and his wife and pet dogs. Despite his early success as an artist, Ray’s painting career stalled in the early 1930s. John Arnold, in his forward to A Letter from Sydney, quotes from a 1960s letter written by Jack Lindsay on the reasons for Ray’s lack of success as an exhibiting artist: “Ray… was a very talented artist, but wanted to do big murals for which there was no market in Australia, and he enjoyed life too much to be ruthless in ambition.”
Pirate's Pleasure, oil by Raymond Lindsay
courtesy Davidson Auctions
In the late 1920s Ray married Lorma Kyle Turnbull (1902-64), a model, sculptor and potter, known professionally as Loma Latour. By 1932, Lorma was beginning to exhibit her work regularly with the Royal Art Society and as their relationship was difficult, Ray ceased exhibiting with the Society. By the mid 1930s his relationship with Lorma had ended and after their official divorce he married Joan Skinner in 1941. The couple lived in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, during most of their marriage and while never wealthy, they survived on Joan’s wages from the David Jones department store and Ray’s art activities.
Despite not being a great success as a painter, Ray became a respected Sydney art journalist, writing well informed reviews for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a newspaper edited during the war by his friend Brian Penton. Being a man of the twentieth century, Ray was far more sympathetic to modern trends than the previous generation of Lindsays, although his own painting was conservative in style.
In late life Ray helped his older brother with information about his life in Sydney during the 1920s. This 13,000 word document, written in 1959, was later published in 1983 (regrettably in an edited form) as A Letter from Sydney and offers insights into Ray’s bohemian life style during this period. Historian Peter Spearritt later described Ray’s letter in a Sydney Morning Herald book review (16 July 1983) as 'one of the wittiest and bitchiest letters ever written from this city.’ While brothers Jack and Philip had both left Australia by the early 1930s, Ray remained in Sydney, being sole family carer for his depressed alcoholic mother until she died in 1949. During the 1940s and early 1950s Ray continued to paint, and in late life dabbled with landscape painting. As an (almost) life long pipe smoker he became a casualty of throat cancer in the mid 1950s. After several periods in hospital he died at his home in Elizabeth Bay on 12 June 1960. The 56 year old artist was childless and was survived by his wife.

© Silas Clifford-Smith 2013
First published as a Peer Reviewed entry on the DAAO website in 2008

Friday, 4 October 2013

J J Hilder (1881-1916), pioneer watercolourist


There are few artists around the world that can claim to have kicked-started their own nation's art market following their death.  But one such artist is the talented Australian watercolourist J J Hilder. While his career was far too brief his life story and lasting legacy certainly deserves to be better known.

Waiting for the boat, Dora Creek (1915), watercolour by J J Hilder

Jesse Jewhurst Hilder was the ninth child (of ten) born to engineer Henry Hilder and his wife Elizabeth Hall. After winning an educational scholarship, Hilder studied at Brisbane Boys’ Grammar School from 1895-97 and while there he began to sketch and paint. After completing his schooling, he joined the Bank of New South Wales in Brisbane. Early in 1901 he was transferred to Goulburn, and in June 1902 he was transferred to Bega on the south coast of New South Wales – while there he is believed to have contracted tuberculosis (TB). In 1904 the bank moved him to Sydney and it is around this time that he sold his first watercolour for one pound. During his time in Sydney Hilder was sometimes painting under the nom de plume of 'Anthony Hood’, apparently so his employer would not be aware of his interest in art. While in Sydney, Hilder met artist Fred Leist, who saw value in his painting, and persuaded Hilder to show his work to Julian Ashton. In 1906 Hilder enrolled in art classes with Julian Ashton at the Sydney Art School; fellow students included Sydney Ure Smith and Harry Julius. 
Julian Ashton wrote of his talented pupil in his late life memoir, Now Came Still Evening On:
Hilder was very shy and reserved. He used to come to my classes after four o’clock when the bank in which he worked closed. He had a natural instinct for drawing and a sense of beautiful colour values. In nearly all of his work he conveys the impression of having attempted to express some individual form of beauty both in design and colour.
Late in 1906, Hilder became increasingly sick, and his chronic illness was finally confirmed as TB. In early 1907 the bank gave him three months leave to seek a cure and he travelled to Stanthorpe in Queensland where he was visited by Julian Ashton. After his medical leave Hilder was transferred to Wyalong, where the climate was considered more suitable for his condition. Despite his illness Hilder kept in contact with his artistic friends and was encouraged to submit work to the first show of the newly revived Society of Artists (SOA) in Sydney. At this exhibition, Hilder was listed as a member of the SOA on the catalogue and he exhibited twenty-one watercolours. The October 1907 issue of Lone Hand reported that Hilder was the 'discovery’ of the August 1907 show. In 1908 Hilder was admitted to the Queen Victoria Home for Consumptives at Wentworth Falls, and in July the bank sent him to the inland town of Young. Later the same year, Hilder exhibited nineteen watercolours at the SOA annual exhibition in Sydney, and sold fourteen works.
While in Young, Hilder met probationer nurse Phyllis Meadmore (1886-1951), and they married in early 1909. Upon the urging of his wife, Hilder resigned from the bank in April 1909 and became a full-time artist. For their honeymoon the couple rented a cottage in Lawson in the Blue Mountains for three months and he painted while there. The couple then moved to Parramatta, and in September the first feature on the artist, written by artist D.H. Souter, was published in Art & Architecture magazine. Sadly this article was the only lengthy profile written during the artist’s lifetime. Sales at the November 1909 SOA exhibition were disappointing and the artist ended his first year as a professional artist under financial stress.
The island schooner, Moreton Bay, watercolour by J J Hilder
Early in 1910 Sydney Long persuaded art dealer Adolf Albers to become Hilder’s agent and during the following six years Albers sold two hundred and seventy-three of his paintings. Hilder’s health improved and he bought a pony and trap which he used to travel to painting spots. After a brief stay in Ryde the family moved to a cottage at Hornsby which they named Burrator. Family fortunes improved, especially after the National Art Gallery of New South Wales bought Dry Lagoon for fifty guineas, the highest price achieved during the artist’s lifetime.
A sensitive man, Hilder was apt to take offence at seemingly minor slights. This, with the added pressures of making a living and the pain and discomfort of his illness, saw the artist end several friendships, although he remained close to Elioth Gruner and Julian Ashton. After the November 1911 SOA exhibition, Hilder seems to have fallen out with several SOA members including Sydney Ure Smith and Harry Julius. In August 1912, Hilder’s displeasure with the SOA was made clear when he exhibited his watercolours with the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, and he exhibited with the SOA’s rival again in 1913 and 1914.

The three barrows in the clay pit (1914), watercolour by J J Hilder

In late October 1913, Hilder and his wife rented a comfortable cottage in Hornsby called Inglewood. Early in 1914 Hilder discovered a nearby working brick pit and from an elevated position above the pit he painted a series of images showing day to day operations below. Some of these images were exhibited at Hilder’s first, and only, one-man show at W.H. Gill’s gallery in Melbourne. The artist exhibited fifty-three works with prices from three to forty guineas at the April 1914 show. Hilder travelled by ship to Melbourne for the opening, but became ill so was unable to sketch while in the Victorian capital. Despite this, he managed to visit the National Gallery of Victoria where he saw The Bent Tree by Corot.
During 1915 Hilder twice visited Dora Creek, a tributary of Lake Macquarie on the Central Coast of New South Wales, to draw and paint, and the work of Corot influenced many of these late life images. His illness worsened and on 23rd March 1916 Hilder painted Dora Creek, his final work. Hilder died at his Hornsby home, aged thirty-five, on 10 April 1916 and was buried at Rookwood necropolis the following day. He was survived by his wife and two children. Known artistic attendees at his funeral included (among others): Julian Ashton, Elioth Gruner, Harry Julius, Adolf Albers, John Lane Mullins (secretary of the SOA) and the director of the (then National) Art Gallery of New South Wales, G.V.F. Mann.
While Hilder is best known for his heavy wash watercolours, he did work in other media. He produced a series of monotype prints as well as several oils. Hilder didn’t persevere with oil painting as the smell was detrimental to his health. He also illustrated for the Lone Hand in 1910 and illustrated poetic works for several other writers. Arguably his most important illustrative commission was for Dorothea Mackellar’s famous poem, My Country (1915), for which he provided watercolour images as well as hand lettering.
The Sydney art community was in shock after Hilder’s death, and in July 1916 a memorial exhibition of two hundred and five loaned works was held at the SOA rooms in Sydney. Listed prominent owners included, among others: Howard Hinton, Sir Baldwin Spencer, S.H. Ervin and Nellie Melba. Publication of the first Hilder book, J.J. Hilder, Watercolourist, edited by Sydney Ure Smith and Bertram Stevens, served as a catalogue to this exhibition, and the profits from the limited edition book were given to the artist’s widow. The success of this experimental colour publication encouraged Bertram Stevens, Harry Julius and Sydney Ure Smith to launch Art in Australia later that year, with a review of the Hilder memorial exhibition in the first issue of the magazine. The publication of Hilder’s work in Art in Australia encouraged other artists to follow his example by taking up watercolour painting. This interest in watercolour saw the establishment of the Australian Watercolour Institute in 1923. Brett Hilder summarised the legacy of his father in the catalogue of the 1966 anniversary exhibition:
From the time of his death, if not before, there grew a Hilder 'legend’ which was established on three aspects: firstly on his work as a watercolourist, secondly on his tragic but gallant life, and thirdly on the inspiration he gave Sydney Ure Smith to begin the publication of fine art books in Australia.
With the work of Hilder being highly sought after following his death, Art in Australia published a well illustrated monograph titled The Art of J.J. Hilder in 1918. This book included eulogistic articles by Bertram Stevens, Harry Julius and Sydney Ure Smith as well as a list of Hilder’s post 1907 paintings. A smaller version of the memorial exhibition was shown in Melbourne in March 1917. In 1966, Hilder’s son Brett published The Heritage of J.J. Hilder, a work which addressed errors in the first book and included a list of known artworks, including three hundred and ninety-four watercolours, fourteen oils and six monotypes.
© Silas Clifford-Smith 2013

For those wanting to know more about J J Hilder's artist son Bim Hilder, please click the attached link
http://creativeeffortsydney.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/bim-hilder-1909-1919-artist-teacher-and.html

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Art Detective: a European souvenir

Sometimes you come across a find at an auction which no body else sees merit in. One such treasure, for me, was a collection of five old pictures in a group lot in the junk goods end of an antique sale. Most of the works in this lot were not worth bothering about, but one image stood out and deserved closer inspection. The image was a print of an old bridge with water running between three arches. The work was untitled and came in an unspectacular, yet sound, wooden frame. The image was clearly an original wood cut, and although unsigned the print included a monogram in the image.


Brug te Mechelen
author's collection

Lucky for me the work was included in a mixed lot and the other bidders lacked any conviction to buy. After paying for the lot for a bargain price I went home with my new purchases. Under good light I could see that the woodcut was indeed the pick of the bunch. It was in good condition although the paper had slightly faded. There were no tears and remarkably there was no sign of foxing.

The image depicted an old stone bridge with fast moving currents passing under its spans. In the background old buildings could be seen. My first thought was this must be a German or Dutch town. The plate had clearly been done by a professional artist, and the depiction of the water showed the expressionist influence of Van Gogh.

detail of the work showing the quality of the artist's carving

My only clue to the creator was the monogram WO/JN located on the lower left of the image. Referring to my trusted friend 'Professor Google' I soon discovered the picture was a famous woodcut by the Dutch printmaker Wijnand Otto Jan van Nieuwenkamp (1874-1950). The work was created in c.1901 and was originally titled Brug te Mechelen, and depicted a famous old stone bridge over the river Dijle in the city of Mechelen in northern Belgium.

Further research soon discovered that this work was one of the artists best known images and the print was included in many public collections including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. Apparently, Nieuwenkamp was one of the greatest Dutch printmakers of the early 20th century, and from 1901 to 1910 he toured the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium in this boat De Zwerver (The Wanderer), which he had built himself. At the suggestion of a friend he organised selling exhibitions of his prints aboard his boat, which attracted international attention. Possibly, this print was purchased as a European souvenir by an Australian tourist or soldier.

This seems to be the Mechelen bridge depicted in Nieuwenkamp's woodcut
Image courtesy of Flickr
If there is any moral of this short tale it is to inspect every work you see at auction. While dirty glass and broken frames can put you off they can sometimes hide hidden treasure. Regular inspections of antique sales and a curious mind aided by the internet will, I'm sure, bring beneficial results to you. Happy collecting!

         

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Exhibition: Paper Mates

Here is the invite for my upcoming show at the Sheffer Gallery in Sydney. As well as my linocut prints there will be work by sculptor Jane Lennon and photographer Julian Wrigley. Although our work is very different we all work with paper. Hope you can come along.




Sunday, 4 August 2013

G V F Mann (1863-1948): gallery director, architect and artist

Best known for being the first director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gother Victor Fyers Mann was also a talented landscape artist, architect and historian. The son of a prominent surveyor and explorer, Mann was born in Paddington, Sydney on 8 October 1863 and grew up living in Neutral Bay, then a small community, on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour. Known to his friends as Victor, Mann was educated at Sydney Grammar School and later trained to be an architect at the University of Sydney. After his formal studies he trained as an architect with Thomas Rowe. He was elected an associate of the Institute of Architects of NSW in 1886 and in 1887 he was awarded a gold medal by the president of the Institute of Architects for his draftsmanship. Mann later practised as an architect in Brisbane from 1888 to 1891 before returning to work in Bridge Street, Sydney.

G V F Mann
Image courtesy Art Gallery of NSW 

Mann’s involvement with the art world began during his time as an architectural student in the mid 1880s. In 1885 Mann met the English artist Charles Conder, and the two young men painted the Hawkesbury River district and trained under Julian Ashton. After Mann’s return from Brisbane in 1891 he studied with Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts at their Commercial Union Chambers studio in Pitt Street, Sydney. With such a high pedigree of talented teachers it is no wonder that Mann persevered with his art, and in 1892 he exhibited his first work (a watercolour titled 'At Bulli, NSW’) at the Art Society of NSW’s annual show. From 1894 to 1896 Mann was appointed Secretary of the Art Society of NSW. Mann’s time in office was a turbulent period in the organisation’s early history and saw a breakaway group of 'professional’ artists leave the Art Society in 1895 to form the new Society of Artists.

Tom Roberts (with pipe) and G V F Mann (right)
painting on the Hastings River in 1896
detail from photo in State Library of NSW collection
Mann began his association with the National Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) in 1896 when he was temporarily employed in cataloguing the collection. Perhaps with ambitions for the role of managing the AGNSW, Mann diplomatically exhibited his work with both the Society of Artists and the Art Society of NSW. With a good knowledge of art and the NSW gallery collection, Mann was appointed to the position of Secretary and Superintendent of the AGNSW in 1905. By the following year Mann, in association with the president of the board of trustees Eccleston Du Faur, published an updated illustrated catalogue of the Gallery collection. The works in the gallery at the time of Mann’s appointment were dominated by nineteenth century images sourced from British and French collections. The Australian collection was smaller than the European and did not include any works created by Aboriginal artists; their works were then consigned to the ethnographic museums.

The initial collection of the AGNSW had been established in the 1880s and 90s and the Classical styled sandstone building designed by W.L. Vernon was completed in 1909. The role of manager of the gallery was upgraded in 1912 and Mann became the first Director and Secretary of the AGNSW. In 1912 Mann was also elected to the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board (CAAB), and from 1918 until his death was Chairman of the CAAB. This committee began to commission and collect works for the new national collection. Mann had two trips to Europe (1914 and 1926) where he purchased new pieces for the NSW collection. These purchases were mainly 'safe’ British and French works by established artists such as Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin, Alfred Munnings and W. Russell Flint. Other important works purchased during Mann’s time at the Gallery include the equestrian statues at the front of the gallery and Edgard Maxene’s 'The Book of Peace’ (1913).

Le Live de Paix, by Edgard Maxence
This work was purchased in 1913 during 
Mann's directorship of the NSW Gallery

Despite lack of funds during his directorship, Mann increased the Australian art collection at the AGNSW. Comparing the 1906 and 1928 Gallery catalogues the Australian collection of oils and watercolours increased from 183 paintings in 1906 to 314 works in 1928. Mann retired from the position of Director of the AGNSW on his sixty-fifth birthday on 8 October 1928. Mann was awarded the Society of Artists Medal in 1928 and in the following year he was awarded the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

While he certainly increased the Australian works in the NSW collection, the main criticism of his period in office was that despite the emergence of modernism in Sydney during the post First World War art boom, hardly any examples of modernist works were included in the NSW collection while under his control. While Mann can be partially blamed for this lack of foresight, most of the collecting decisions at the gallery during this time were determined by the board of trustees.


While Mann had discontinued exhibiting with the Royal Art Society and Society of Artists after his appointment at the AGNSW in 1905, he was briefly involved with the short lived Australian Arts Club (AAC) at the end of the Great War. The AAC evolved out of the Sydney Sketch Club which was formed at the start of the war. By 1919 the original sketch club, now known as the Australian Arts Club, had a membership of about two dozen members and Mann was listed in catalogues as Vice-President. The club was restricted to professional male artists who were associated with the Club’s President, Sydney Ure Smith. At the first exhibition of the AAC in Melbourne, in April 1918, Mann exhibited ten paintings. Mann also exhibited nine works at the only AAC exhibition in Sydney in 1919. The Triad reviewer commented in July 1919 that Mann had 'several charming and intimate bits of adroitly appreciated beauty’. The artist did not submit works to the third and final 1920 AAC show in Melbourne although he was still listed as Vice-President on the catalogue.


In early May 1930, Mann held the only solo show of his career at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney. Being a former director of the state gallery, Mann’s exhibition of 45 oils and watercolours was keenly judged by several Sydney critics, including William Moore of the Daily Telegraph (7 May 1930, page 10):


His collection of landscapes vary in quality, but in the best of his examples, Mr. Mann shows a sure, broad touch… The artist has a fine sense of colour, not of the flamboyant insistence of a Blamire Young, but a deep, rich quality of its own.

Part of the catalogue of Mann's 1930 show at the Macquarie Galleries


The June 1930 issue of The Home magazine reported that Mann had sold seventeen works at the exhibition. Most of his pictures were Australian, English, Dutch and Venetian landscapes supplemented by harbour views, seascapes and flower studies. The European pictures must have been painted during Mann’s 1926 visit to Europe. Two works, 'The Passing of the “Gabo” and the “Manly” ’ and 'Doorway to Banqueting Hall, Wardour Castle’ were purchased by the National Art Gallery of NSW. After the solo show Mann continued to paint during the 1930s, his later works being mainly views of old Sydney houses.

With the planned move to new premises at 252 George Street, Sydney, the management of the Bulletin decided to open a large gallery on the top floor of their new headquarters. Being the artistic arm of the fiercely nationalistic Bulletin, the Macleod Gallery was appropriately dedicated to showing Australian art. Now retired from the NSW Public Service, Mann was appointed as the Director of the new gallery, which was named in honour of the recently deceased Bulletin editor, William Macleod. Mann’s debut exhibition was a mixed show of many of the leading artists in Australia and to help him with selection he was assisted by leading painters, Sir John Longstaff and Will Ashton. B.P. Magazine dedicated three pages of their September 1932 issue to the Macleod Gallery, the feature included images of the large gallery and several exhibited works. Mann continued in the role of Director until the Macleod Gallery closed in 1936.

Mann seems to have had a long-term interest in history especially the architectural heritage of his home town. As early as 1902 he exhibited four views of The Rocks district to a special Society of Artists exhibition titled 'Pictures of Old Sydney’. Many of Mann’s later works had heritage themes, including an oil painting titled 'Milson’s Point, Fifty Years Ago’ which was reproduced in the 1932 B.P. Magazine feature. In late life Mann wrote an informative local history of North Sydney titled Municipality of North Sydney: History and Progress from the earliest Settlement 1788-1938, published by the North Sydney Council in 1938. Profusely illustrated with early photographs, the book also included three works painted by Mann. The artist continued to paint throughout the 1930s and exhibited some of his watercolours at several of the Australian Watercolour Institute (AWI) annual shows. His final public contribution was two works exhibited at the 1940 AWI exhibition. Little is known of Mann’s activities during his final years. He died, aged 85, on 12 November 1948 in Sydney. Mann was survived by his wife, Mabel Beatrice and a daughter.


© Silas Clifford-Smith 2013

This is an edited version of a Peer Reviewed article first published on the Design and Art Australia (DAAO) website in 2008

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

B J Waterhouse (1876-1965): architect, gallery trustee and artist

Bertrand James Waterhouse was a leading Sydney architect who was a significant player in the New South Wales art world during the first half of the twentieth century both as a prominent gallery trustee as well as an artist. Waterhouse was born in Leeds, England in 1876, and later moved to Australia with his mother and two sisters in 1885.


B J Waterhouse
image courtesy Art Gallery of NSW Research Library

Waterhouse was educated in Burwood, Sydney and later studied architecture at the Sydney Technical College. From 1908 he built up a successful architectural practice on Sydney’s lower north shore, which at the time was experiencing a building boom. His early architectural work was in the Arts and Crafts style but after the Great War he designed Mediterranean influenced buildings such as May Gibbs's well known (extant) house Nutcote. Active in public life he was a leading member of the Institute of Architects and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects where he served in several leadership positions.

Waterhouse was also a skilled draftsman and occasionally exhibited his pencil drawings and watercolours with the Royal Art Society of New South Wales between 1902 and 1941. He had a solo exhibition of his drawings at the Macquarie Gallery, Sydney in 1932 which was formally opened by artist Norman Carter. The Sydney Morning Herald, reviewing the exhibition in June 1932 noted:
“The interest of Mr. B.J. Waterhouse’s pencil drawings, which he has placed on view at the Macquarie galleries, lies as much in their subjects as in the manner of treatment. Mr. Waterhouse’s is an objective style. He sees the quaint houses, the massive buildings, of the Old World through the eye of an architect, and sets them down on paper clearly and coolly, without much attempt at composition, except what rises accidentally from the arrangement of the subjects as they meet his eye. His style is always fresh and crisp and definite. He reveals planes deftly and smoothly, never clouding his effects with over-elaboration.”
As well as this show, Waterhouse exhibited eight pencil works at the November 1938 'Painter-Etchers’ and Graphic Art Society of Australia’ exhibition at David Jones, Sydney. He was also a foundation member of the Sydney based `XV Independent Group’ (active 1938-1945) and exhibited at several of their exhibitions at Farmers department store. Most of his exhibited works from this period seem to be architectural drawings of British and Continental themes.
Tug Ahoy, watercolour by B J Waterhouse

Waterhouse was appointed a trustee of the National Gallery of New South Wales [now known as the Art Gallery of New South Wales] in 1922 and became their President  in 1939, a position he held up to 1958. Perhaps reflecting the periods interest in childrens’ art education, Waterhouse became a vocal advocate for the distribution of the Art Gallery paintings to schools, as can be seen in this March 1941 report in the Sydney Morning Herald :

“Art should be talked to schoolchildren from the earliest years, and in art I include architecture and garden planning,” said Mr. B.J. Waterhouse the president of the National Art Gallery, at the Mosman Children’s Library yesterday afternoon… Mr. Waterhouse suggested that the Art Gallery should become the central depot from which the best pictures should be sent to all schools in the State for exhibition. “There should be a small annexe attached to all schools to house the pictures sent to them from the gallery,” he said, “thus making the schools satellite art galleries.”
Waterhouse served as a trustee of the National Gallery of NSW under four gallery directors – G.V.F. Mann, James S. MacDonald, William Ashton and Hal Missingham. Although a conservative, Waterhouse’s term as president of the trustees coincided with the period when the NSW gallery finally embraced the collecting of modernist art works.


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