Images from a family album
Unknown, Australia | (The Archer brothers with Lionel Knight Rice) c.1867 | Albumen photograph on paper | Purchased 2008. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Thomas Mathewson, Australia 1842-1934 | (Family group with five children) c.1890s | Albumen photograph on paper mounted on card | Gift of Glenn R Cooke through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2010 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Currently on display | Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Galleries | Queensland Art Gallery (QAG)
From the earliest times, portraiture has been a mainstay of artistic practice, although it has usually been the reserve of the wealthy. In the nineteenth century in Europe, photography was a new and experimental art – individual and group photographic portraits increasingly became available, and were eventually accessible to members of the working classes. Photographers soon made their way to Australia to record landscapes and aspects of colonial life.
Silvester Diggles (1817–80) arrived in Brisbane in 1854 and is thought to be the first photographer active in Queensland. The Archer brothers with Lionel Knight Rice c.1867 is the earliest photograph in this display and, although the identity of the photographer is unknown, the image is significant as it depicts five members of the pioneering Archer family of central Queensland.
As the medium became more popular and accessible, photographers began to sign their names on their small (carte de visite) or large (cabinet) photographs in order to identify their work. Some of the most prominent photographers had studios in Brisbane’s central business district: Thomas Mathewson, Albert Lomer and Poul C Poulsen in Queen Street, and JJ Hogg in George Street. Their businesses demonstrate the quality and variety of family photographs taken in Queensland in the last decades of the nineteenth century. At this time, photographers also travelled throughout regional Queensland before studios were set up in major towns, such as Rockhampton, Toowoomba and Bundaberg.
These photographs would have been displayed in substantial and highly decorated albums, produced to affirm links to family connections, both near and distant, often across continents.
Thomas Mathewson (Family group with five children) c.1890s
Thomas Mathewson is one of the best-documented photographers active in colonial Queensland, first in regional centres from c.1860 to 1875 and then for several decades in Brisbane. When Mathewson died in Brisbane on 12 May 1934, he was recognised as the ‘Grand Old Man’ of Queensland photography.
Like many of these photographs, this would have been included in a substantial family album where the subjects were known but the personal connection is lost when the album is broken up. Nevertheless we can understand the family relationships recorded here and appreciate the skills of the photographer.
The Queensland Art Gallery houses a significant collection of Australian paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects, and works on paper. Find more information on these selected Collection highlights | Indigenous Australian Art | Queensland Heritage | Australian Art to 1975
Search the Queensland Art Gallery's Collection online for works by Thomas Mathewson, Albert Lomer, Poul C Poulsen, JJ Hogg and Ada Driver | Collection Search