Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thomas J. Nevin's Blue Ink Series

ALFRED BOCK and THOMAS J. NEVIN photographers
BLUE INK BORDERS and CAPTIONS printed photographs
WILLIAM LEGRAND bookseller and conchologist

When professional photographer Alfred Bock departed Hobart Tasmania in 1865, his junior partner Thomas J. Nevin acquired at auction on August 2nd the lease of the studio at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth Street Hobart, the shop, the glass house and darkroom, the stock of negatives, frames, cards and inks, the camera equipment, backdrops and furniture. Thomas Nevin continued to use Alfred Bock's most common verso studio stamp design for another decade, altering it only minimally for his commercial studio portraiture, although he used at least six other designs for various formats and clients, including the Royal Arms insignia for commissions with the Colonial government.

Alfred Bock used a blue ink rather than a black in printing the verso with his stamp in this portrait of a teenage girl with bare shoulders and ringlets, possibly one of the last he took in Hobart.

Girl with bare shoulders and ringlets
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1865
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2013 ARR

The Blue Stamp
For some time after Bock's departure in 1865, Thomas Nevin was using the same supply of blue ink on the same design as Bock's with just a minimal alteration to include Bock's name as credential - "T. Nevin Late A. Bock" - enclosed by a belt - the belt being a popular and universal design of the period. The blue ink of the stamp verso of this portrait of a seated woman (below) is from the same stock as Bock's (above), with the addition of a slight tinge of red on the kangaroo's breast.

Carte-de-visite portrait in oval mount of an unidentified woman white collared dress
Photographer Thomas Nevin ca. 1866-7
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2013 ARR

Carte-de-visite with blue tint of a reclining baby
Scans submitted here courtesy of private collector Liam Peters, December 2010.
Copyright © The Liam Peters Collection 2010 ARR

The blue ink used in the verso stamp on this portrait of a baby is paler, suggesting Nevin's supply was running low, expending the last for the vivid blue tinting around the baby's shoulders, possibly executed by a studio assistant.

The Album Print Caption
By the time Thomas Nevin printed this single large photograph of the River Derwent from his 1860s double print stereograph (below), the blue ink was practically spent. The lettering is large and pale, and barely legible. The stereograph was printed with a blind stamp impress requiring no ink.

Title: River Derwent above New Norfolk
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: PH1-1-24A
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

TMAG Collection Ref: Q1994.56.21
MEDIUM: sepia stereoscope salt paper print ,
MAKER: T Nevin [Artist];
DATE: 1870s
DESCRIPTION : Scene near New Norfolk ?
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: Impressed on front: T Nevin/ photo

The Blue Border

Constable John Nevin, brother of Thomas J, Nevin
Known to the family as Jack Nevin
Photographer Thomas J. Nevin ca. late 1870s. Verso blank.
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2010.

Thomas J. Nevin took this particular photograph of his younger brother Jack, Constable John (W.J.) Nevin (1851-1891) in a studio setting in the late 1870s. John Nevin sat posed in his street clothes - bow tie, jacket and hat - with right leg resting over left knee. Nevin framed the print within a blue ink border, which distinguishes this photograph - and the one below of the conchologist and bookseller William Legrand which is also framed within a blue ink border - from inks and colours used by other photographers in Thomas Nevin's cohort of photographers. Alfred Winter, for example, invariably used a red ink border to frame both studio portraits and landscapes.

Thomas Nevin used a crossed blue border on his Hobart Gaol photograph of Edward Wallace taken in 1874 (Mitchell Library, SLNSW (PXB 274) and sepia borders to frame his later carte-de-visite portraits in oval mounts of prisoners ca. 1878, such as those full frontal photographs held at the Mitchell Library State Library NSW Series PXB 274, eg, No. 9, photo of Patrick Lamb, to match a dark mount or a dark background behind the sitter. The blue colour used by Nevin to frame his brother's portrait (above) was a darker, deeper navy than the bright lighter blue he used on his verso studio stamp soon after taking over Alfred Bock's studio from 1865, and that same bright blue colour, most noticeably similar in the photo of the baby (above) was used to frame this mounted carte-de-visite portrait studio portrait (below) of William Legrand, suggesting strongly that the photograph was taken by Thomas J. Nevin..

Concomitant similarities to Nevin's work include the semi-turned torso pose with the subject's gaze averted on a downward diagonal sightline, typically found in Nevin's earlier 1872-1875 mugshots of prisoners (QVMAG, TMAG, SLNSW and NLA Collections) and in several of his immediate family. Important too were the homosocial factors which placed Thomas Nevin within Legrand's circle of clients and acquaintances due to his father John Nevin's post-military career as both poet and journalist. John Nevin's poem, published in 1868, titled "My Cottage in the Wilderness", is also held at the State Library of NSW in the David Scott Mitchell Collection, Ref: DSM/A821/P20. The DSM Collections date from c.a. 1907.

What was the occasion, then, for William Legrand to request this type of portrait for himself? Several key dates in his life and in the life of the colony may have prompted him to dress formally, perhaps even buy a new stiff silk vest, get a hair cut, and seek out the photographer, all in a bit of a hurry so it seems, judging by the unsmoothed lapel and bunched-up vest.

William Legrand may have needed a carte-de-visite for simply that: a card to present himself at an important function, such as H.R.H Prince Alfred's visit to Hobart in 1868. Nevin photographed children for the visit operating as the firm of Nevin & Smith (with Robert Smith until 1868).Or, his Sydney publishers- the engravers for the shell drawings (Mercury, 23 November 1870) which featured in his preliminary self-published monograph, Collections for a Monograph of Tasmanian Land Shells, 1871, may have requested his photograph. Then again, Mr Legrand may have been included on a list of notable citizens whose portraits were submitted to various intercolonial and international exhibitions. Tasmanian photographers exhibited at the London International Exhibition of 1873 and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1875.

An original mounted carte-de-visite of Tasmanian bookseller and conchologist William Legrand, probably taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870. Framed within a bright blue border, stamped on recto with the SLNSW accession stamp. Verso blank. See references below.

Emailed Notes from the State Library of NSW:
"The carte of Mr Legrand at P1/Legrand has no photographer's identification, just the handwritten inscription Mr W Legrand Tasmania on verso and in a later hand Conchologist and Bookseller."
Scan sourced from online version of Joan Frances Holloway (2010),William Legrand: A Study
Unpublished PhD thesis,
School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.
"Page 283: Figure 9. William Legrand, n.d., photograph. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.P1/W." online 2011.
Correspondence with author gratefully acknowledged.

The provenance of this photograph is not clearly documented by the State Library of NSW. It may have been donated by Tasmanian collector John Watt Beattie, or accessioned from the publishers Angus & Robertson by David Scott Mitchell before 1907. It may have been sourced from the Charles Melbourne Ward (1903-1966) Collections which were donated originally to the Australian Museum. Charles Melbourne Ward's fascination for marine zoology would account for this photograph of conchologist William Legrand in his collections. Several items were presented by Kerry Cramp and the Australian Museum in 1987-1989 and 1999-2000 to the State Library of NSW. Pic.Acc.6864 and Pic.Acc.6974 combined. The University of Sydney also holds a significant Mel Ward Collection. Read a more extensive biography of Charles Melbourne Ward at ABD.

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