Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thomas Nevin's portraits of his wife Elizabeth Rachel

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day, wife of Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), was born on 26 March 1847, and christened one month later at St Mary's, Rotherhithe, London, UK on 28th April 1847. Her father was master mariner Captain James Day, born on 10th June 1806, Yorkshire, died in Hobart, Tasmania on 21st November 1882. Her parents Captain James Day and Rachael Pocock were married at St David's Hobart on January 6th, 1841, witnessed by her uncle Captain Edward Goldsmith. Her mother Rachel Day nee Pocock died of consumption in Hobart in 1857. Her younger sister Mary Sophia Day was born in Hobart in 1853. Elizabeth Rachel Day was named after her father's sister, Elizabeth Day, who married Captain Edward Goldsmith in 1829, Liverpool, UK. Elizabeth Rachel Day married Thomas James Nevin on 12th July, 1871 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart Tasmania.

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin ca 1900

An item in b&w magnifying the face of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914)
Photo 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 (1847-1914) in her later years, probably taken ca. 1900 by her husband. Just her face was magnified to an unusually large size, measuring approx. 8x10. 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 . And it may have been magnified for a specific purpose and event such as the publication in a newspaper, or placement on her headstone (she died in 1914).

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, himself, his private clients, and even a few cartes of Tasmanian convicts dating from the 1870s, all show evidence of hand-tinting. Some are expertly and finely done, and others are merely daubed with blobs. Elizabeth Rachel may have assisted her husband in this final touch, operating in his studio as his colourist from the beginning of her marriage, and may have even touched up this photograph 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 photograph, or was even painted over the original image, this image of Elizabeth Nevin may have been the preliminary for a fully painted portrait.

EARLIER PORTRAITS by Thomas Nevin of his wife Elizabeth Rachel:

Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2005-2009 ARR
Photographed by Thomas Nevin mid 1860s a few years before their marriage, these two portraits of a very young Elizabeth Rachel Day have the firm of Nevin & Smith studio stamp on verso.

Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day 1870

Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2005-2009 ARR
A delicately hand-tinted carte-de-visite portrait dating to ca. 1870 just before their marriage in 1871. 
Elizabeth was 23 years old.

This photograph of Elizabeth (below) was taken in the late 1870s by her husband. It exists pasted into the scrapbook of her son George Ernest Nevin, which is held in the private collection of the Shelverton family (descendants). The background of this copy was photo-edited by the Shelverton family in 2008.

Elizabeth Nevin late 1870s

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

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872