Society News

Xmas Drinks 2014, Lindesay

5th December 2014

  The annual Christmas drinks were held at Lindesay at Darling Point, Sydney. Lindesay was built in 1834-6 for the Colonial Treasurer, Campbell Drummond Riddell and his wife Caroline. The villa took two years to build on a site of approximately 17 acres at the very tip of the peninsula in an area then known as Mrs Darling's Point (previously known by its Aboriginal name Yarranabbee), named after Governor Ralph Darling's (1825-31 Governor) wife Eliza. Lindesay is the first gothic revival style house built in the colony. The house has had many prominent owners, including Sir Thomas Mitchell (1841-45) and Sir Charles Nicholson (1845-59). The Pye family were the last private owners (1926-1963) and in 1963, Walter Pye gifted the house to the National Trust of Australia (NSW).

There was a good attendance at this event with 41 members gathering under the very large canopy at the back of Lindesay, enjoying the harbour view over the lawn on an overcast but otherwise mild evening. As usual, Annette Blinco managed to arrange an impressive array of canapes with a good selection of wine for the occasion. The event was a great way to end the year, providing a wonderful opportunity to catch up or meet other members.   

Renowned heritage architect, Howard Tanner was the guest speaker. He gave an interesting perspective on the challenges of finding useful roles for heritage buildings and maximising their use within the community. As old buildings are very costly to maintain, it can be difficult to convince governments to acquire buildings or keep ownership of buildings of historical significance, thus saving it from re-development or demolition.   

The interiors of Lindesay were open to the members and Bill Blinco kindly conducted a tour of the collection and furnishings. Held in its collection are items original to Lindesay at some stage of its past 180 years of existence, colonial and English furniture, colonial portraits and decorative items. The house is fitted throughout with early cedar joinery and doors.

The Society would like to thank Howard Tanner for so generously taking time from his busy schedule to join us and speaking at the event. 



Lindesay catering area and back lawn.
  Members exchange updates over drinks and refreshments.
Bill Blinco is the man with the drinks.


 Members exchange updates over drinks and refreshments.   Members exchange updates over drinks and refreshments.   Members exchange updates over drinks and refreshments.



 Howard Tanner speaks to the members.   Lindesay interior - main entry.   Inspection of Lindesay interiors with Bill Blinco.



 Inspection of Lindesay interiors with Bill Blinco.   Inspection of Lindesay interiors with Bill Blinco.   Inspection of Lindesay interiors with Bill Blinco.



Inspection of Lindesay interiors with Bill Blinco.   Final exchange of news at the end of the evening.   Final exchange of news at the end of the evening.

Dr Dorothy Erickson:

"19th Century Western Australian Furniture Makers"

National Trust Centre, Sydney

29th October 2014

  The Australiana Society invited Dr. Dorothy Erickson to speak at the National Trust Centre during her visit to Sydney in late October. Dr. Erickson is a regular contributor of articles to Australiana, a result of her extensive and continuing research into Western Australian decorative arts.

Dr. Erickson's talk on 19th century Western Australian furniture makers covered country craftsmen, the early cabinet maker Joseph Hamblin, Western Australian born craftsmen Edwin Foss Duffield, the Chan family, convict furniture makers, amateur woodcarvers Henry Passmore, Pansy Francis and Henrietta Strickland, and professional woodcarver William Howitt.

The talk was illustrated with examples of colonial jarrah furniture recently sold at auction which were either signed by or attributed to the maker. There is strong collector interest in Western Australia for colonial jarrah furniture and robust prices have been recorded. The colony struggled in the early years of British settlement and population numbers were low with only a small number of better-off families able to furnish their homes with formal furniture. Consequently, very limited numbers of colonial jarrah funiture have survived. Despite the low production numbers, distinct regional differences between surviving furniture can be discerned and attributed to  the various population centres in the Swan River Colony.

It was certainly a privilege to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Erickson speak on her latest research which has resulted in her new book on Western Australian decorative arts, Inspired by Light and Land: Designers and Makers in Western Australia 1829-1969.



Light refreshments and catch up before the talk.

  Michel Reymond, committee member welcomes Dr. Erickson.

Dr. Erickson's talk was well illustrated with informative slides.


 Important pieces of colonial jarrah furniture were discussed.   Jim Bertouch, Society president addresses the audience and thanked Dr. Erickson.   Post talk discussions.

'A fine possession: jewellery and identity', Powerhouse Museum

27th September 2014

  Australiana Society members were invited to a special curator-led viewing of the jewellery exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum on the 27th September. Curator Eva Czernis-Ryl hosted the tour of the jewellery exhibition, with over 700 pieces made from a variety of traditional and avant-garde materials, spanning time, place and culture. The exhibition tells the stories of jewellery designed, made and worn in Australia and across the globe.



The Australian colonial jewellery display.
  Australian gold jewellery of the colonial period.
Members view the exhibition.


 The event was attended by 30 members.   Necklaces made from shells and coral.   Curator Eva Czernis-Ryl.

Hilda Rix Nicholas at the Mosman Art Gallery

25th June 2014

  Mosman Art Gallery provided an interesting venue for members to meet for refreshments and a tour of the exhibition Une Australienne: Hilda Rix Nicholas in Paris, Tangier and Sydney.
Hilda Rix Nicholas was an Australian painter who studied in Australia and France, and established an international career in the years prior to and following the 1st World War. A spectacular exhibition of a large variety of her paintings has been curated and displayed at the Mosman Art Gallery. It includes paintings from her time in France, Tangier and well known locations around Sydney. Many of these paintings have not been exhibited together since the 1920s, the time of Hilda Rix Nicholas' solo exhibitions.

Following light refreshments (including a mouth-watering home-made cheese) and an opportunity for new and old members to meet and share experiences, the curator and guide for the evening, Julie Petersen was introduced to members by Vice President of the Australiana Society, Annette Blinco.

Julie Petersen provided a fascinating talk on the pictures in the exhibition with information on the artist's life story as well as on Rix Nicholas' painting technique and style, including the influence of her exposure to the Post Impressionist period.

After this most informative talk, members were free to walk around the exhibition to view the paintings. The opportunity was also provided to view the Balnaves Gift, a donation to the gallery of Australian Impressionist and early 20th century artworks, including paintings by Arthur Streeton, Conrad Martens, Sydney Long, Ethel Carrick Fox and Margaret Preston.

The Australiana Society wish to thank the Mosman Art Gallery for allowing access to the exhibitions as well as to Julie Petersen for her most interesting presentation.


Julie Petersen's talk on Hilda Rix Ncholas at the exhibition.



 Tour of the exhibition.   Hilda Rix Nicholas.   Tour of the exhibition.


 Refreshments and catchup.   Refreshments and catchup.   Refreshments and catchup.

AGM 2014 and Australian pottery Show & Tell

30th April 2014

  The AGM for 2014 was held at Australian Galleries, courtesy of Stuart Purves. The evening started with light refreshments followed by a tour of the current exhibitions at the gallery: June Tupicoff landscape works and Pam Tippett's still life paintings.

Annette Blinco, Australiana Society Vice President started the formal proceedings of the evening with welcoming comments and a big thank you to Australian Galleries for providing the venue. The President's report was delivered by Jim Bertouch. Jim provided an update to members of the past year's activities and thanked all members for their support, in particular to the committee for their hard work. The Treasurer's report was provided by Michael Lech, our Secretary, in the absence of the Treasurer. Both the President's report and the Treasurer's report will be published in full in the May issue of Australiana.

The formal proceedings were followed by a Show & Tell session on Australian pottery. Members attending the meeting brought along pottery items from their collections for discussion. An interesting range of items were shown, including a Grace Seccombe signed kookaburra decorated pin dish, an Australian Club monogrammed dinnerware, studio pottery, and a range of early commercial pottery. Some items were brought along by members with the hope that others may be able to assist with further information on the object and we were fortunate to have a number of pottery experts at the meeting. Interesting conversations were generated by each object, such that we overran our time and had to reluctantly draw the evening to a close.

The Australiana Society wish to thank Stuart Purves and Australian Galleries staff for hosting the AGM at their wonderful venue in Paddington.



Tour of the gallery with the landscapes.
  Light refreshments and
 sharing recent news.

The still life paintings in the upstairs gallery.


 AGM 2014 commences.   A member with his
 unsigned mystery vase.
  Items being examined and discussed.



 Appreciating a pair of frilled neck lizard bookends.   The Australian Club
 dinnerware piece.
  Shall we swap?

Sydney Punchbowl Event

1st April 2014

  Members gathered at Hordern House in Potts Point, Sydney for two talks by Elizabeth Ellis on the Sydney Punchbowl and Anne McCormick on a recently acquired object by Hordern House.

Elizabeth Ellis OAM, Emeritus Librarian, Mitchell Library was commissioned by Hordern House to write the definitive and scholarly book on the Sydney Punchbowl. The Sydney Punchbowl was presented to the Mitchell Library in 1926 and is of the Chia Ch'ng period (1796-1820) and of Cantonese origin. The Punchbowl is one of only two extant examples of this period to depict views of Sydney, the view on the Museum punchbowl is dated to the Macquarie period before 1818. Elizabeth's book was part of a wider project between Hordern House and the the State Library of NSW to produce a limited edition of 25 faithful copies of the Punchbowl.

The evening began with light refreshments, providing an opportunity for members to catch up and renew acquaintances, as well as meet other members. Hordern House is a mid-nineteenth century building with an updated interior sympathetic to its early Victorian age. The gallery of early prints, paintings, objects and books formed a wonderful backdrop to the talks by two very knowledgeable speakers on their topics.

As usual, it was a great pleasure to listen to Elizabeth who spoke on the Sydney Punchbowl and her research into the background and history of the bowl. In some ways, it was through good fortune and foresight by members of the public that the Punchbowl is in the collection of the Library. The original owner of the Punchbowl remains a mystery and the relationship between the two punchbowls has not been fully determined. As with the Macquarie and Dixson collector's chests, two very similar objects raise fascinating questions on the relationship between the objects, order of manufacture, whether one was an initial version and the other a final product. Tantalisingly, the Mitchell Library Punchbowl bears a gilded monogram of initials which has been partly worn and attempts to accurately decipher the initials and identify the intended owner remains unsuccessful. There have been a number of candidates identified as potential owners based on probable initials. Hopefully, Elizabeth will succeed in solving this mystery and we look forward to future updates on her research.

Elizabeth's talk was followed by Anne McCormick who produced a rather rare object which was recently acquired by Hordern House. Anne spoke on the George Barrington mug, a printed creamware mug, manufactured around 1790. George Barrington was a notorious pickpocket who was convicted and transported to Botany Bay on the 1791 fleet. The mug bears a print of George Barrington in the act of picking the pocket of one of his victims. Objects with identified convicts are extremely rare and the George Barrington mug at Hordern House is possibly the only one in private hands. George Barrington's celebrity was such that his name has been used as the author of more than 100 books but current understanding is that he was never the writer of any of these books. In little more than a year of arriving into the colony, Barrington received a conditional pardon and in 1796, he was appointed as the Chief Constable of Paramatta. Barrington died in December 1804.

Elizabeth's book on the Sydney Punchbowl was reviewed in the February 2014 issue of Australiana and is available from Hordern House.

The Australiana Society wish to thank Elizabeth Elllis and Anne McCormick for their talks at this event and Hordern House for so graciously hosting the event.



Catchup over light refreshments.
  Catchup over light refreshments.
Anne McCormick with Elizabeth Ellis discuss
 the Sydney Punchbowl project.


 Elizabeth Ellis and one of the Sydney Punchbowl
  Anne McCormick with the George Barrington mug.   Members and guests at the talks.



 Discussion with Elizabeth.   A chance to examine the George Barrington mug.   Post talk discussions and chat.

Annual Dinner & Lecture 2014

1st February 2014

  St. Paul's College at the University of Sydney was an atmospheric and fascinating surrounding for the Australiana Society's Annual Dinner and Lecture held on the 1st February 2014.

Pre-dinner drinks in the courtyard provided an opportunity for members to mingle and enjoy the outdoors on a very pleasant summer evening.

St. Paul's College, Australia's oldest residential college, was founded in 1856 and is affiliated with the University of Sydney. The architect responsible for its design was Edmund Blacket who also designed the main university building. Other notable buildings designed by Blacket include St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, St. Paul's Church, Redfern, St. Mark's Church, Darling Point and St. Phillip's Church, Church Hill, all in the gothic revival style of the Victorian period. 

The guest dinner speaker was Michael Turner, Senior Curator at the Nicholson Museum. Michael provided interesting information about the founder, Sir Charles Nicholson and gave a fascinating talk on some of the objects held by the museum. Michael talked about context and importance of the story surrounding items in the collection and how an item's connections (some surprising) create contemporary relevance and additional interest.

The Nicholson Museum is home to the largest collection of antiquities in the southern hemisphere. Founded in 1860 by Sir Charles Nicholson with the donation of his private collection of antiquities and curiosities, the museum has grown in size and scope, and today comprises over 22,000 artefacts of artistic and archaeological significance from Egypt, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and the Near East.

The Australiana Society is very thankful to the staff of St. Paul's College for providing the venue, pre-dinner drinks and an excellent meal as well as to Michael Turner for contributing a fascinating insight into the beginnings of the Nicholson Museum, as well as a picture of its current activities.



 St. Paul's College.   Jim Bertouch, Australiana Society President with
 Michael Turner, Senior Curator, Nicholson Museum.
  Members and guests at the dinner.



 Members and guests at the dinner.   Members and guests at the dinner.   Members and guests at the dinner.


Society News 2013