Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thomas Nevin's portraits of his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day (1847-1914)

Early and later portraits of Elizabeth Rachel DAY by Thomas J. NEVIN
Hand-tinted cartes-de-visite 1860s
Overpainted photographs 1900s

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914), wife of Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), was born in London on 26 March 1847, and christened one month later at St Mary's, known as the Mayflower Church, Rotherhithe, London, on 28th April 1847. Her father, master mariner Captain James Day (1806-1882), was born on 10th June 1806, in York, UK and died in Hobart, Tasmania on 21st November 1882. Her mother Rachel Day nee Pocock (b. London ca. 1812-1857) died of consumption in Hobart, Tasmania in 1857. Her younger sister Mary Sophia Day (1853-1942) was born in Hobart in 1853 and died in Melbourne in 1942.

Elizabeth Rachel Day's parents Captain James Day and Rachael Pocock were married at St David's Church, Hobart Tasmanian on 6th January 1841, witnessed by her uncle Captain Edward Goldsmith ((Chalk, Kent 1804 - Higham, Kent, 1869). Elizabeth Rachel Day was named after her father's sister, Elizabeth Day (Yorkshire, 1802 - London, 1875), who married Captain Edward Goldsmith in 1829 at Liverpool, UK.

Elizabeth Rachel Day married professional photographer Thomas James Nevin on 12th July, 1871 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart Tasmania. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin had seven children between 1872 and 1888, six surviving to adulthood.

Elizabeth Rachel Day (b. Rotherhithe 26 March 1847 - d. Hobart Tasmania 29 June 1914)
Father: Captain James Day; mother Rachael Pocock
Spouse: Thomas James Nevin

Mary Sophia Day (b. Hobart 9th March 1853 - d. Melbourne Victoria 18 June 1942)
Father: Captain James Day; mother Rachael Pocock
Spouse: Hector Charles James Horatio Axup

Birth and christening: Elizabeth Rachael [sic - she dropped the "a" on marriage] Day, christened on 28th April 1847 at St Mary's Church Rotherhithe, London UK. Source:

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day ca 1900

This image of just the face of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914) magnified from a piece cut from the larger original.
Photograph taken by her husband Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1900.
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2009 ARR

This is an old black and white enlargement of a detail of a portrait of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914) in her later years, taken ca. 1900 by her husband. Just her face was magnified to an unusually large size, measuring approx. 8x10 inches. It has the impact of a modern cinematic close-up. The magnified final image was pasted to grey cardboard.

The entire original photograph is yet to surface; it may have been a carte-de-visite head and upper body pose in semi profile, or a cabinet-sized seated pose . It may have been magnified for a specific purpose or event such as the publication in a newspaper, or placement on her headstone (she died in 1914 and was buried at the Cornelian Bay cemetery on 21 June, Church of England, site no. 258).

The remarkable aspect of the image is the evidence of hand-painted strokes around the hair line and eyes. The original photograph may have been hand-coloured, though not as heavily as the fashion of painting over photographic portraits which became popular in the 1890s. Many of her husband's early extant portraits of his wife, of himself, his private clients, and even a handful of extant mugshots of Tasmanian convicts taken during his commission to provide the colonial government with prisoner identification portraits in the 1870s, show evidence of hand-tinting. Some were expertly and finely done done by Nevin and his studio assistants, others were ineptly daubed with blobs by clients or collectors after purchase. Elizabeth Rachel Day may have assisted her husband in his studio as his colourist from the beginning of her marriage, and may have even touched up this photographic portrait of herself taken thirty years later.

Given the existence of another item from the same family source of a fully-painted picture of Albert Nevin, Elizabeth's youngest son , posing with his horse ca 1917 which was copied almost exactly from a photograph, or was even painted over the original image, this image of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day may have been the preliminary study for a fully painted portrait.

Earlier portraits by Thomas Nevin of Elizabeth Rachel Day:

Vignette of Elizabeth Rachel Day ca 1867
Studio stamp on verso "Nevin & Smith, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town".
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2005-2009 ARR

Photographed by Thomas Nevin in the late 1860s a few years before their marriage, these two portraits (above) of a very young Elizabeth Rachel Day were taken by Thomas J. Nevin while operating with partner Robert Smith as the firm "Nevin & Smith, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town" .The partnership was dissolved by Thomas Nevin's mentor, the Hon. W. R. Giblin in February 1868.

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin 1870

A delicate hand-tinted carte-de-visite vignette taken by Thomas J. Nevin just before their marriage in 1871.
Elizabeth Rachel Day, 23 years old.
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2005-2009 ARR

This photograph of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (below) was taken in the late 1870s by her husband. It exists pasted into the scrapbook of her son George Ernest Nevin (1880-1957) together with stereographs of Kangaroo Valley (Hobart) and photographic portraits of his grandparents John and Mary Nevin, mostly taken by his father Thomas J. Nevin in the 1860s -1880s. The scrapbook is held in the private collection of the Shelverton family descendants of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's youngest daughter Minnie (May) Nevin (m. Drew). The background of this copy was photo-edited and submitted courtesy of the Shelverton family in 2008.

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day ca. 1878
Photo taken by her husband Thomas J. Nevin late 1870s
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collection 2008 ARR.

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