Alfred Bock and the Bayles sisters

HOBART PHOTOGRAPHERS Alfred BOCK and Thomas J. NEVIN
STUDIO DECOR, furniture and carpets
THE BAYLES SISTERS 1860s

Professional photographer Alfred Bock established himself at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Tasmania in 1858 after a series of financial difficulties, and stayed there until 1865 when he was again declared insolvent. On Bock’s departure from Tasmania, commercial photographer and government contractor Thomas J. Nevin acquired the studio lease, glass house, and stock-in-trade at auction in August 1865. He continued with the business name the City Photographic Establishment until 1876 when he joined the civil service as Office and Hall Keeper to the Hobart City Council and Municipal Police Office with residency at the Hobart Town Hall, resuming commercial photography in 1880 until retirement in 1886.

The three Bayles sisters

Left: Mary Louisa Bayles
Centre: Elizabeth Bayles
Right: Ellen Bayles
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1865
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint and Private Collections 2020.

Alfred Bock’s portrait of Mary Louisa Bayles
Outdoors, just back from a stroll in the fresh air country air, hat in hand, was the theme chosen for Mary Louisa Bayles’ session at Alfred Bock’s studio ca. 1865.  He stood her next to a circular metal garden table decorated with a metal stand supporting a bowl of artificial fruits and flowers. Behind her, both on her left and right, two plaster plinths were to suggest a patio balustrade leading to steps rising to a terrace just out of frame. Painted on the backsheet to the viewer’s right, the large tree reaching to the top was to soften the edge of the frame in similar manner to the drape which nearly always appears in Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin’s indoor studio portraits. In the distance to the viewer’s left, the smaller tree was to deepen perspective while allowing enough blank space to foreground the pose Mary Louisa chose as a complement to the outdoor decor. Only the carpet appears incongruous in a setting which has so much outdoor furniture. That same carpet with a pattern of large dark lozenges rimmed in white appears in several portraits by Thomas Nevin of private clients. He may have acquired it from H. H. Baily whose studio was located almost opposite in Elizabeth Street. It appears in Baily’s portrait of Sara Crouch who was photographed by Thomas Nevin about the same time, ca. 1872.

The table top metal stand holding a bowl of fruit or flowers appears in all three of these photographs by Alfred Bock of the Bayles sisters. The floor to ceiling drape with a pattern of flowers or vine leaves appears in just about every one of these studio portraits by Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin.

Subject: Mary Louisa Bayles
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1864
Location: 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, Tasmania
Details: full-length carte-de-visite
Verso bears Alfred Bock’s stamp with kangaroo atop a circular belt
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2020.

Verso:
Subject: Mary Louisa Bayles
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1864
Location: 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, Tasmania
Details: full-length carte-de-visite
Verso bears Alfred Bock’s stamp with kangaroo atop a circular belt
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2020.

Mary Louisa Bayles was under 21 yrs old when she married Thomas Littlechild at St. Andrew’s church in the district of Campbell Town, Tasmania on 14th October 1868. His occupation was not registered, apart from the word “Esquire” attached to his name which was to signify a man of independent means. Witnesses to Mary Louisa Bayles’ marriage were Messrs Thos Robertson, John Bilton and Joseph Bayles.

Name: Bayles, Mary Louisa
Record Type: Marriages
Gender: Female
Age: Minor
Spouse: Littlechild, Thomas
Gender: Male
Age: Adult
Date of marriage: 14 Oct 1868
Registered: Campbell Town
Registration year: 1868
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:870428
Archive Office Tasmania Resource: RGD37/1/27 no 26

Alfred Bock’s portrait of Elizabeth Bayles
For Elizabeth Bayles’ session, Alfred Bock put a plinth to her right but positioned her next to the larger plinth. It is the same plinth with an inset plaster wreath decoration which appears in Thomas J. Nevin’s portrait of his younger brother, 16 year old Wm John Nevin (1852-1891) taken in the same studio while operating as the firm Nevin & Smith with partner Robert Smith, ca 1867 to February 1868. Although this full-length carte-de-visite portrait of Elizabeth Bayles is somewhat broken for all the handling it has taken over the last 160 years, it still renders a lot of historically accurate information about women and studio photography in 1860s colonial Hobart.

Subject: Elizabeth Bayles 
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1864
Location: 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, Tasmania
Details: full-length carte-de-visite
Verso bears Alfred Bock’s stamp with kangaroo atop a circular belt
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2020.

Verso:
Subject: Elizabeth Bayles
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1865
Location: 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, Tasmania
Details: full-length carte-de-visite
Verso bears Alfred Bock’s stamp with kangaroo atop a circular belt
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2020.

Alfred Bock’s portrait of Ellen Bayles
When Alfred Bock set up his studio to take a photograph of Ellen Bayles (below), he included the metal table and metal stand with fruit or flowers he had arranged for his portrait of her sisters Mary Louisa and Elizabeth Bayles, but placed them on the viewer’s left in front of the drape printed with a pattern of vine leaves. The same drape appears in Thomas Nevin’s self-portrait ca. 1868, in sitting pose wearing white gloves and holding a stereoscopic viewer.

Source: Viewed online July 2020 at Sydney Rare Books Auctions June 2019
Vendor’s note:Ellen Bayles Album. A leather worked Carte de visite album, 15 x 12 x 6cm, inscribed and signed by Ellen Bayles, with 22 family Cartes de visite including her portrait (Bock, Hobart). Photographers include Dowling, Baily and Burrows.

Ellen Bayles’ Album
By way of an introduction to her photo album, Ellen Bayles included a poem in five verses on the inside left page, signed by her which may or may not indicate her own composition,

TRANSCRIPT partial

My Album
Here I see familiar faces
Ranged together side by side
Occupying Friendship’s places
Treasured within Affection’s pride.

Kith and Kin, and dead and living
Grave and gay and youth and age
Love selected, life reflected
Lifelike in each hallowed page…
…..
And my spirit feels a pleasure
And a pride [illegible] can tell
In possessing this one treasure
Of the friends I love so well
[Signed] Ellen Bayles

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