Reproductions of Charles A. Woolley’s portrait of Tasmanian Aborigines 1860s-1915

TASMANIAN PHOTOGRAPHERS C. A. Woolley, T. J. Nevin, Samuel Clifford, and the Anson Brothers 1860s-1880s
HAND-COLOURING of cdvs 1870s after purchase from T. J. Nevin’s studio
REPRODUCTIONS of C. A. Woolley’s photographs of Tasmanian Aborigines 1860s by John Watt Beattie 1890s-1915

Truganini with footstool visible
This carte-de-visite print of Charles Woolley’s original photograph of three Tasmanian Aborigines – Truganini (seated on left), William Lanne (centre, standing) and Bessy Clarke (standing, on right), taken in 1866, was reprinted by another photographer’s studio, possibly Thomas Nevin’s, before Truganini’s death in 1876. The owner of the cdv print after purchase attempted hand-colouring of the drape and carpet with crimson. Similar inept hand-colouring was applied to a series of cdvs bearing Nevin’s name inscribed as “Clifford & Nevin” or his studio stamp with provenance in the north of Tasmania (QVMAG, Launceston; McCullagh Private Collection, etc). The provenance of this particular print is from the private collection of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s grandchildren. It was passed down from Thomas Nevin to descendants of his youngest son, Albert E. Nevin (1888-1955).

The word “living” on the printed label, verso of this print, which appears to have been pasted over the back of the original cdv and probably bearing the stamp of another photographic studio, uses the present tense to indicate that Truganini was still alive in April 1869, while Bessy Clarke had died, 12th February 1867, and William Lanne had died, 3rd March 1869, thereby dating the first reprint of this photograph to April 1869 but not necessarily of any subsequent prints which could have been produced in every decade until the early 1920s in the name of tourism, especially by John Watt Beattie, when this particular trio was believed to represent “the Last of the Tasmanian Aborigines”.

As a result of the growing belief that the Aboriginal race was doomed to extinction, photographers sought to record what was believed to be a disappearing way of life. They followed the ‘frontier’, seeking to find Aboriginal people apparently untouched by change – seemingly ‘primitive’, ‘authentic’ subjects, stripped of signs of European civilization, such as clothing. By contrast, humanitarians such as missionaries sought to show Aboriginal people as essentially the same as Western observers, dressed elegantly with signs of literacy and Christianity such as the Bible…

Jane Lydon (2016): Transmuting Australian Aboriginal photographs, World Art
To link to this article:

Subject: on left, Truganini (seated), William Lanne (centre), Bessy Clarke, (standing, on right).
Photographer: Charles Alfred Woolley (1834-1922) who worked from 1859 to 1870 at premises adjacent to his father’s upholstery and carpet warehouse.
Format: sepia carte-de-visite on plain buff mount. The plain cdv mount was imported from Marion Imprint Paris, sold by Walch’s stationers in Hobart, Tasmania.
Location and date: 42 Macquarie St. Hobart, 1866
Details: reprint of an original photograph by C. A. Woolley by another studio, possibly T. J. Nevin’s, given provenance from Nevin family descendants.
The verso of this particular cdv reprint was pasted over with a printed label to indicate that Truganini was still living in April 1869, ostensibly when the printed label was first created.
Crimson water colour was applied to the drape and carpet by purchasers of the print, which may have been returned to Nevin’s studio where attempts were made to remove the colouring.
Condition: faded image, torn mount, pinholes in mount, possibly printed on salt paper which has absorbed the crimson colouring in parts; might have been washed at some stage.
NB: the footstool at Truganini’s feet is visible in this capture which was taken minutes apart from the capture below which was reprinted by John Watt Beattie ca. 1891. Another difference between this capture and the reprint by Beattie is Truganini’s right hand – she held it open and relaxed in this capture, but clenched and closed in the capture below.
Provenance: descendants of photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)

Verso: (for recto notes, see above)

Female to left, TRUGANINI, – Seaweed. (Lallah Rookh). About 65 years old. The only Aboriginal Native of Tasmania living in April, 1869.

Female to right, PINNANOBATHAC, – Kangaroo Head. (Bessy Clarke). About 50 years old, died at Oyster Cove, February 12th, 1867.

Male, WILLIAM LANNE, or King Billy, about 26 years old. The last male Aboriginal Native of Tasmania. Died at Hobart Town, March 3rd, 1869.

Photographed from life by Chas. A. Woolley, August, 1866.

Marion Imp. Paris

Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & KLW NFC Group Private Collection 2021.

Truganini with footstool covered
Clearly, Charles Woolley took this photograph within minutes of the capture above in the same session. He requested from his sitters a few minor adjustments to the composition. Truganini moved her chair and herself closer to William, covered her feet and the footstool with the hem of her dress, and closed her right hand into a fist. William maintained his pose but changed his facial expression; and Bessy leaned in closer to William. All three maintained their gaze to the left of the photographer but focussed on a point closer to the floor.

This is not the only instance where two captures taken in the same sitting within minutes are extant of a group of Tasmanian Aborigines. The original session in which two photographs were taken of four sitters identified as William Lanne, Mary Ann, Truganini and Pangernowidedic is dated 1864 and widely credited to the studio of Henry Albert Frith of 19 Murray Street, Hobart. Slight variations in seating and direction of gaze also occurred between takes, and only one of the two captures to survive was hand-coloured. Read more in this article: Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

Given the quality of this print, (below) by John Watt Beattie, he may have acquired Charles Woolley’s original glass plate negative from stock purchased by the Anson brothers when he first joined their studio in 1891 at Wellington Bridge, Elizabeth Street Hobart. He expanded their business, reprinting the works of Charles Woolley, Thomas Nevin and Samuel Clifford when each had ceased commercial photography, and mostly without due acknowledgement to them as the original photographer. There is no indication, for example, on this print that the original photograph was taken in 1866 by C. A. Woolley, and not by J. W. Beattie when it was reproduced after 1891, collated thematically in a deluxe album, and offered to wealthy collectors such as David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907).

30. William Lanne, Trucanini and Bessie Clark [group portrait] [sic] i.e. Truganini on left, William Lanne, centre, and Bessie Clark(e) on right.
Reprint ca. 1891 by John Watt Beattie from Charles A. Woolley’s original print, and possibly from the original negative. J. W. Beattie blind stamp on lower left.

Aborigines of Tasmania : 31 photographs / David Scott Mitchell copy
CALL NUMBER PXD 572/vol. 1
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION 1 albums (32 prints) – albumen – 45 x 42 cm
SCOPE AND CONTENT Subtitled “31 photographs” on title page. 31 photographs are listed in index. Contains one additional photographic copy of a landscape, Wybalena – Aboriginal Establishment Flinders Island 1845, at end of volume (total 32 photographs).
30. William Lanne, Trucanini and Bessie Clark group portrait [sic]
SIGNATURES / INSCRIPTIONS’ J.W. Beattie Photographer Hobart’ appears as a blind stamp at lower left of each print
DATE NOTE Original drawings approximately 1835-1840 and photographs 1866
CREATOR/AUTHOR/ARTIST Beattie, J. W. (John Watt), 1859-1930
NAME Lanne, William, 1835?-1869; Truganini (1803-1876); Clark, Bessy, ca. 1825-1867
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

The trio on glass, 1915
This is a reproduction on glass by the studio advertised as “Anson’s Photographs” of the original capture by Charles A. Woolley taken in 1866 which John Watt Beattie reprinted ca. 1891 or later. The fact that the glass negative of this capture survived, to be reprinted by Beattie on paper in the 1890s (and reproduced in an album before the death of collector David Scott Mitchell in 1907) and then reproduced on glass by Anson in this format as an object d’art, highlights the uniqueness of the slightly different capture of the same trio in the same sitting, printed as a carte-de-visite (at top) now held by descendants of photographer Thomas J. Nevin. No other print of that particular capture, where the footstool is visible,  appears to be extant.

The oval glass on which this image was printed is held in a rolled metal frame and has a wire attached to the back for hanging on a wall.

Reproduction on glass by “Anson’s Photographs” ca. 1880-1890 (?)from original photograph by Charles A. Woolley, 1866, of Tasmanian Aborigines Truganini, William Lanne and Bessy Clarke.
The verso bears the Anson’s Photographs label and the handwritten inscription “Last Aborigines of Tasmania”
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & The Private Collection of John and Robyn McCullagh 2007

The date “1915” written by hand on the verso label might signify the date the object was purchased from the studio at Wellington Bridge, 52 Elizabeth Street, rather than the date the item was made. Although the printed label verso might claim it is the work of one of the Anson brothers, they had ceased commercial photograph by the late 1890s. The business flourished under Beattie once he gained government commissions to promote Tasmania’s convict heritage, healthy climate and wilderness wonderland to intercolonial and interstate tourism markets.

Detail of Anson’s portrait on glass: Trucanini’s hands, right hand closed.

The handwritten inscription includes a date, 1915, and “Last Aborigines of Tasmania”
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & The Private Collection of John and Robyn McCullagh 2007

The verso of this portrait bears a printed label which advertises just one Anson (John Anson) at the Wellington Bridge, Hobart studio, operating as ANSON’S PHOTOGRAPHS. His many awards listed in print included:
Silver Medal, Paris, 1889 Highest Award for Australia
Sydney, 1879
Silver Medal, Melbourne, Highest for Tasmania
Silver Medal}
First Class Award} Calcutta Exhibition
Silver Medal, Hobart Industrial Exhibition, 1886

Hand-coloured examples of Nevin’s portraits by owners
The hand colouring of the carte-de-visites in these examples bearing the hand-written inscription “Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town” and others from a similar provenance (northern Tasmania and Victoria) are sometimes mistakenly assumed to be the work of Nevin’s studio colourist, which was not the case (McPhee QVMAG, 2007). The colouring was applied after the purchase of the print by a family member of the purchaser, probably by a child playing with a small hand-held stereoscopic viewer. It just may be possible that underneath the printed label on the verso of the cdv of the Aboriginal trio (at top) there is the same hand-written inscription in Clifford’s own orthography. In stark contrast to these daubs and dabs, the hand-tinted portraits by Thomas Nevin’s own studio colourist of his private clientele and his own family members, are distinctly different: they evince a fine, delicate touch with minimal application of pale water colours in rose pink and yellow.

Photo historians have assumed that Thomas Nevin’s relationship with prolific stereographer Samuel Clifford (1827-1890) was transitory, not lasting longer than ca. 1870 (McPhee, QVMAG 2007), which was not the case. They have also assumed that Clifford ceased commercial practice ca. 1873 (Kerr, 1992, Long, 1995), which also appears to be incorrect. When Thomas J. Nevin advertised his temporary retirement from commercial practice in the Hobart Mercury, 17th January 1876, on the eve of his appointment to the civil service as Office and Hall Keeper for the Hobart City Council and photographer for the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall, Samuel Clifford announced in the same issue that he had acquired T. J. Nevin’s commercial negatives taken for private clients and would reprint them on request. Nevin resumed photographic work for the Territorial Police and private clients at his New Town studio in late 1880, retiring ca, 1888.


PHOTOGRAPHY:- T. J. NEVIN, in retiring from the above, begs to thank his patrons for the support he has so long received from them, and also to state that his interest in all the Negatives he has taken has been transferred to Mr S. CLIFFORD, of Liverpool-street, to whom future applications may be made. In reference to the above, 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

Source: Mercury, 17th January, 1876

Samuel Clifford had not ceased practice in 1873, therefore, as most commentators have assumed, and many extant prints with Samuel Clifford’s stamp or attribution are likely to be later reprints from Thomas Nevin’s negatives, including Nevin’s stereographs of Port Arthur (1872-1874), and of the upper Derwent Valley (late 1860s-1874). On retirement in 1878, Samuel Clifford advertised the sale of his own photographic stock in trade, camera, lenses, printing frames etc. (3rd March 1878). His photographic stock was bought by the Anson brothers and reprinted along with works by Nevin which Clifford had acquired in 1876. Those same negatives were reprinted again when John Watt Beattie joined the Anson brothers at their studio at Wellington Bridge in Elizabeth Street, Hobart in 1892. Beattie in turn reprinted the work of all four of these earlier photographers, often failing to attribute their work or accredit them by name.

Cdv of two unidentified men, Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town handwritten on verso, 1870s.
Original by T.J. Nevin late 1860s – early 1870s, reprint by Samuel Clifford 1876-78
Colouring by subsequent private purchasers.
Exhibited at the QVMAG, The Painted Portrait Photograph in Tasmania, November 2007-March 2008, printed on page 63 of the exhibition catalogue.

Full-length cdv of young man, heavily tinted with violet, bright red and dark red
Verso inscribed “Clifford & Nevin Hobart Town”.
Original by T.J. Nevin late 1860s – early 1870s, reprint by Samuel Clifford 1876-78
Colouring by subsequent private purchasers.
Courtesy © The Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2006. ARR.

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