Second Thoughts: one session, two poses at the City Photographic Establishment

CITY PHOTOGRAPHIC ESTABLISHMENT 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
PHOTOGRAPHERS Alfred BOCK and Thomas J. NEVIN
TWO POSES at same sitting of WOMEN CLIENTS 1860s-1870s

Alfred Bock ca. 1865-1867
These two photographs of an unidentified woman who posed for photographer Alfred Bock ca. 1865-1867 in his Hobart studio were taken minutes apart. The provenance of the top cdv where the woman is gazing directly at the camera/photographer, was local: it was purchased for  KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection on eBay in 2017 from a seller located in South Australia. The provenance of the second cdv in which the woman’s gaze is directed 15 degrees to the viewer’s left, was the United Kingdom, according to Douglas Stewart Fine Books (Melbourne) who catalogued it for sale in July 2017. Here, on this webpage, exactly 150 years after these two photographs were taken in Bock’s glass house at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, and probably printed within the hour on the same day, they are reunited in the hope they may excite recognition from a descendant who can provide this striking woman with a name and an account of her travels.

Detail of full-length carte-de-visite of an unidentified woman ca. 1865, her gaze direct to camera
Photographer: Alfred Bock, City Photographic Establishment 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collection 2016

[Above]: Full-length carte-de-visite of an unidentified woman ca. 1865
Photographer: Alfred Bock, City Photographic Establishment 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collection 2016
Provenance: purchased from eBay 5 August 2016

[Below]: Detail of the cdv of the same “wealthy lady wearing a fine taffeta dress“, taken within minutes of each other, her gaze averted to the viewer’s left.
Sourced with permission from Douglas Stewart Fine Books July 2017 Catalogue

Sourced with permission from Douglas Stewart Fine Books July 2017 Catalogue

Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 103 x 63 mm, verso of mount with imprint in blue ink of Alfred Bock, City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town; both the albumen print and mount are in fine condition.
A superb studio portrait of a wealthy lady wearing a fine taffeta dress. In her left hand she holds what appears to be a carte de visite album; her other hand rests on a neo-classical column. The painted backdrop, depicting an open landscape, is framed by a wrought iron arch.
Alfred Bock, son of the convict engraver and pioneer photographer Thomas Bock, was active at his 140 Elizabeth Street premises between 1858 and 1867.

Alfred Bock’s Studio Decor early 1860s
This unidentified gentleman was photographed by Alfred Bock at the City Photographic Establishment not much later than 1860. The decorative arch, the painted backdrop featuring a tree and the waist-high lattice fence were already key items of studio decor which were still in place for the later two portraits of the woman in a taffeta dress (above). The item of furniture provided for her to rest her right hand was a solid pedestal supporting a very large urn, whereas a low easy chair was provided for this gentleman to casually rest his right hand and lower arm. The photographer’s stamp on the verso of this cdv was one of Bock’s earliest, designed soon after taking the lease on the premises at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart in 1858. It predates his later one also featuring a kangaroo which Thomas Nevin used, modified only slightly to include his own name and Bock’s with the wording “T. Nevin late A. Bock.” See these examples of both photographers’ designs here.

CITATION
Untitled 1859-1867
Artist Alfred K Bock
Australia 1835 – 1920
Art Gallery of NSW 2015
The Photograph and Australia Exhibition
https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/270.2014/

Alfred Bock is distinguished as the first known Australian-born photographer. Bock was born in Hobart Town in 1835 to Mary Ann Cameron, née Spencer, who lived with, and eventually married, Thomas Bock. Alfred was given Thomas’s surname and regarded him as his natural father. Thomas Bock taught Alfred painting, drawing and photography, and he assisted his stepfather in his daguerreotype business until establishing his own studio in 1855. Despite ongoing financial difficulties (he was announced insolvent in 1857 and again in 1865) Bock succeeded in introducing the carte de visite to Hobart in 1861 and became expert in the sennotype process. In addition to his experimentation with photomechanical techniques, he also hand-coloured portraits and experimented with over-painting photographs. Bock showed his work at the London International Exhibition (1873), the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition (1876), the Sandhurst (Bendigo) Industrial Exhibition (1879), the Adelaide International Exhibition (1887) and the Paris International Exhibition (1889) and received several awards.

A carte de visite is a stiff card of about 10 x 6.4 cm, with an attached paper photograph, invented in 1854 by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disderi. They were introduced into Australia in 1859 by William Blackwood with albums arriving in 1860, aiding the collection and distribution of multiple cartes. Cartes were usually portraits and were made by the millions worldwide. Multi-lens, or ‘multiplying’ cameras were introduced in the 1860s, which were capable of producing from 2 to 32 images in quick succession, dramatically increasing the number of cartes de visite that could be made from a single photographic plate. They were easily reproduced by making paper contact prints from the glass plates, which were then cut and pasted to card.

EXHIBITION HISTORY
The photograph and Australia:
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 21 Mar 2015–08 Jun 2015
Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 04 Jul 2015–11 Oct 2015

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 248 (colour illus.).

Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870
Two portraits of this unidentified woman taken by Thomas J. Nevin have also survived from a session at the City Photographic Establishment. Their provenance is unknown  as is their date of acquisition by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.  These two examples were reprinted from Nevin’s negatives by his friend and colleague Samuel Clifford between 1876 and 1878 at the request of the client. The original cdvs by Nevin would have carried his studio stamp on verso.

Both versos carry the handwritten inscription in Samuel Clifford’s orthography: “Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town”. The original was taken by Thomas Nevin before 1876, and reprinted by Samuel Clifford up until the date of his (Clifford’s) retirement in 1878, as promised in this advertisement in the Mercury, 17th January 1876:

Mr T. J. Nevin’s friends may depend that I will endeavour to satisfy them with any prints they may require from his negatives.
S. CLIFFORD

Samuel Clifford’s offer to reprint Thomas Nevin’s commercial negatives of private clientele after 1876 was due to Thomas Nevin’s appointment to full-time civil service and residency at the Hobart Town Hall (1876-1880) which precluded remuneration from commercial photography. Many of the extant cdvs and prints inscribed verso with “Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town” which were reproduced from Nevin’s original negatives of private clientele, both male and female, now held in the TMAG, Hobart and QVMAG, Launceston, show signs of extensive handling – and attempts at colouring in some instances – by the families who donated them. See more examples here.

Detail of a full-length cdv of an unidentified woman in a dress with a frilled bodice, over-skirt and frilled hem, her gaze directed to the viewer’s right. She is standing with left hand resting on a dining room chair. A rug covers the back of the chair and her hat rests on the seat. The capture by Nevin appears to have been premature: the woman’s eyes are almost upon him, and the reprint by Clifford appears to be crooked with the floor and chair slanting down off to the left, so the second capture was composed with the woman seated on a stool, her left hand holding a thin volume, her gaze calm with eyes to the right of frame.  

Full-length cdv of an unidentified woman in a dress with a frilled bodice, over-skirt and frilled hem, her gaze directed to the viewer’s right. She is standing with left hand resting on a dining room chair. A rug covers the back of the chair and her hat rests on the seat. The capture by Nevin appears to have been premature: the woman’s eyes are almost upon him, and the reprint by Clifford appears to be crooked with the floor and chair slanting down off to the left, so the second capture was composed with the woman seated on a stool, her left hand holding a thin volume, her gaze calm with eyes to the right of frame. Photographed by T. Nevin before 1876, reprinted by Samuel Clifford before 1879.
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection
TMAG Ref: Q1990.25.401

Detail of the second cdv of the same unidentified woman in a dress with flounces on the bodice, over-skirt and hem. sitting on an invisible stool, a slender volume in her left hand, her gaze directed to the viewer’s right.

This is the second photograph, taken minutes after the first capture (TMAG Ref: Q1990.25.401 above).

Full length cdv on plain mount: A young woman [unidentified] with large roll of hair atop the part, holding a slender volume in her left hand, seated on an invisible stool, wearing a dress densely textured with raised flecks, a short flounce attached to the waist, and a frilled bodice. Her gaze is directed towards the viewer’s right. A white cat seems to be disappearing into the right side of frame.

The verso carries  the handwritten inscription in Samuel Clifford’s orthography: “Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town”. The original was taken by Thomas J. Nevin before 1876 at the City Photographic Studio, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, and reprinted by Samuel Clifford between 1876 and 1878 at the request of Nevin’s clients.

Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection
TMAG Ref: Q1990.25.400

RELATED POSTS main weblog