Thomas J. Nevin cartes heavily tinted

A portrait by Thomas J. Nevin of a serious young man with a love of cameras (he is leaning on a stereoscopic viewer here) which was taken by Nevin at his studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town.

The photograph can be accurately dated from ca. February 1873, as the verso has the official government insignia of the Royal Arms lion and unicorn rampant enclosed within Nevin’s studio stamp.This type of stamp was printed for Thomas Nevin’s commission to photograph Tasmanian prisoners at the Port Arthur and Hobart Gaols from 1873 while still a commercial photographer; on his appointment as a full-time civil servant with the Municipal Police Office and Hobart City Corporation in 1876, his use of this stamp signifying joint copyright with the government was unnecessary. He photographed more than 3000 prisoners between 1872 and ca. 1886.

This young man may have been one Thomas Nevin’s apprentices or assistants.

The stereoscopic apparatus pictured in the photograph is a double lens stereograph viewer. A box of this size could hold a large number of stereo cards; turning the wooden handle (underneath the young man’s right hand) changed the card being viewed.

Other details of interest are the studio furnishings: the three legs of the table look to be hand-carved wooden images of a griffin. Behind the table is a plain chair. Next to the young man is a low, upholstered chair covered with a protective material. The mandatory curtain draped down the right side of the image was a conventional framing device. These studio furnishings appear in several other cartes by Thomas Nevin of his family members and private clients.

Overall, the portrait of the man with the stereoscope is an image of a well-dressed and groomed young man with dreamy eyes, a testimony to the middle class status of photographers in the 1870s in Hobart Town.

Another heavily hand-tinted carte with the same palette, and with verso accredited to Clifford & Nevin of the young man (above) in a short jacket, blueberry-tinted necktie and mulberry-tinted curtains, is also from the McCullagh Collection.

At least the diamond-patterned carpet in the portrait of the man with the stereoscope was spared the big red blobs of this portrait. Both of these photographs were coloured after their purchase by members of a Northern Tasmanian family, and probably by the children of the family. They were not coloured in this fashion by Nevin or his studio colourists. Examples of Nevin’s hand-tinting of cartes of his own family members show delicate touches. Some of his photographs of convicts (i.e. prisoners) were also coloured for heightened realism to assist the public in recognizing escapees, and these were displayed in Nevin’s shop window, on the walls of the Police Office, and in the windows of the Mercury newspaper offices.

For a comprehensive view of the life and work of Tasmanian photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), visit the weblog developed by descendants, readers and collectors.

From © The Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2006 -2010. ARR.

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