Saturday, February 14, 2009

The firm of Nevin & Smith

Two different studio stamps were used by the firm Nevin & Smith until 1868:

Elizabeth Rachel Day, married Thomas Nevin in 1871
Taken by Thomas Nevin at Nevin & Smith (late Bock's) ca. 1865
140, Elizabeth Street Hobart Town
Full-length portrait, carte-de-visite
Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections (Eva Morris Estate 2009) ARR. Watermarked.
Click on images for large view

Elizabeth Rachel Day (1847-1914) was barely out of her teens when the photographers Nevin & Smith composed two portraits in different formats of her in the mid 1860s.

In this full-length portrait and the one below, she wears the same top coat. The studio decor of the full-length portrait above, however, is very different from the later portraits taken by Thomas Nevin at the City Photographic Establishment. The carpet and table and drape are not the same, suggesting either another studio in another venue or furnishings belonging to Alfred Bock who was the previous proprietor of the City Photographic, and whose stock was sold at auction when he became insolvent and departed for Victoria in 1865.

Elizabeth Rachel Day, fiancee of Thomas Nevin late 186os
Upper-body portrait, hand-tinted carte-de-visite.
Verso bears the same Nevin & Smith studio stamp as the full-length portrait

Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections ARR. Watermarked.

Both portraits remain in the private collections of the Nevin Family, and both are rare for the studio stamp which appears on verso. Thomas Nevin set up the firm Nevin & Smith ca. 1865 at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, in partnership with Robert Smith. However, by February 1868, the partnership was dissolved.

Above: Dissolution notice published in The Mercury on 26 February 1868 of the partnership between Robert Smith and Thomas Nevin. William Robert Giblin, later Attorney-General and Premier, was Thomas Nevin's solicitor and witness.

T.Nevin stereo TMAG

Nevin & Smith studio Elizabeth St. late 1860s
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection
Ref: Q1994.56.12 sepia stereoscope salt paper print
T. Nevin impress

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery online catalogue entry in 2005 gave these details:

Ref: Q1994.56.12
ITEM NAME: Photograph:
MEDIUM: sepia stereoscope salt paper print
MAKER: T Nevin [Artist]; DATE: 1860s late
DESCRIPTION : Hobart from near 140 Elizabeth Street on corner Patrick ? Street.
Nevin & Smith photographic Studio in buildings on extreme right [ refer also to Q1994.56.33]
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: Impress on front: T Nevin/ photo

Smith may have been an independent photographer prior to his partnership with Nevin. By about 1863, according to Esther Mather (d.1872, aged 77 years), Smith was providing the citizens of Hobart Town with coloured photographs.

In this letter written by Esther Mather to her [step] grandson, dated 1st October, 1865, she refers to a coloured portrait taken at Smiths, possibly a few years earlier, which compared less favourably with the one taken that day of her brother at Charles A. Woolley's studio:

[Page 1]
My dear Francis,
Thou wilt think me long in not not [sic] sending the likeness I promised but it has not been for want of thought about thee but I have been so very much engaged with one thing or another that I have hardly had time to write a few lines but thou wilt be better off in the end for I only met up with my Brother to day [sic] which I also enclose Its from Wooleys [sic] and I consider it a very good # one [superscript inserted] probably more like him now than the coloured ones from Smiths I dont remember having given George one but if I have not I will get one for [Page 2] Him and send It...

Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

Source: Morris Miller Library, University of Tasmania,
Special Collections
Ref: M.19/70:
Notes:"The letter is from the Mather family papers and is from Esther Mather to her [step] grandson, Joseph Francis Mather, in which she makes reference of her likeness from Woolleys being better than the coloured ones from Smiths. It is dated 1.8. 1865"

The oddity about Smith's identity is the use of the word "late" by Thomas Nevin next to Smith's name on the verso of a stereograph held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, one of several with the Nevin & Smith studio stamp.

The use of "Late" appears on the verso of this one:-
Tas. Views from Nevin & Smith (Late) Photographers (s crossed out) 140 Elizabeth Street
- indicating Smith's departure from the partnership and perhaps his demise.

TMAG Catalogue details: Ref: Q16826.9
ITEM NAME: photograph:
MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope,
MAKER: T Nevin [Photographer];
TITLE: 'Tasmanian Views.'
DATE: 1870c
DESCRIPTION : No information relative to title of his images. This one, of a house or maybe a school.
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: (On back) Tas. Views from Nevin & Smith (Late) Photographers (s crossed out) 140 Elizabeth Street. Stereoscopic and Album Portraits Views Photographed. Views of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms:-Cheap!


Nevin & Smith verso 1868Nevin & Smith children album 1868

[Studio portrait of two children] Nevin & Smith.
Digital image(s):
Nevin & Smith, photographer.
Title: [Studio portrait of two children] [picture] / Nevin & Smith.
Access/Copyright: Reproduction rights: State Library of Victoria
Accession number(s):
Date(s) of creation: [ca. 1867-ca. 1875]
Medium: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen silver, hand col. ;
Dimensions: 11 x 7 cm.
John Etkins collection.
Both standing on either side of a chair, whole-length, full face, boy on left, girl on right.
Title assigned by cataloguer.
Not dated but Nevin worked at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, between 1867-1875.

Ref.: Australians behind the camera, directory of early Australian photographers, 1841-1945 / Sandy Barrie, 2002.
Photographer printed on verso: From / Nevin & Smith / late Bock’s / 140 Elizabeth Street / Hobart Town.
Gift of Mr John Etkins; 2005. 

The third photograph bears a rare studio stamp by Nevin & Smith on the verso which features the royal insignia of three feathers and a coronet, banded with the German "ICH DIEN" (I serve). This variation of the Nevin & Smith stamp has never before surfaced in either private or public collections.

These two children were probably photographed for an album of photographic prints depicting the children of Tasmania which was gifted to Alfred Ernest Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh, during his visit to Hobart in 1868.

According to Jack Cato in The Story of the Camera in Australia (1977 ed. p.58), a group of Tasmanian photographers was invited to contribute. Cato says:

"All the cities presented the Duke with official albums of photographs, and many photographers presented private ones. Henry Johnstone gave him a book of pictures of the beautiful women of Victoria. Charles Nettleton gave a book of prints of Melbourne and the countryside. But best of all was the one given by the photographers of Tasmania - a collection of prints showing the beautiful children of the island. The Duke was so charmed with it that he requested a duplicate album be made and sent to his mother."

Where is this album? Four photographers were commissioned by the colonial government of Tasmania to cover the Duke's visit, notably Samuel Clifford and George Cherry, and possibly Cato is referring to this group, but an album of children's portraits taking by this group to commemorate the event as a Royal gift has yet to come to light.

This young man with a stereoscope viewer could have been one of Thomas Nevin's assistants, perhaps even the partner Smith in the firm Nevin & Smith. See this post here.

young man with stereoscope by TJ Nevin

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