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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Postcard from an artist

This week's photo prompt shows a group of people painting by the waterfront. 

 We have sometimes come across people painting 'en plein air' and I thought I might possibly have had a photograph somewhere that showed them in the background, but it seems not, so instead I've included this postcard that I found a couple of years ago at a store that was selling antiques, bric-a-brac and curiosities. On the front is a pen sketch by Leonardo da Vinci entitled "Study of flowing water".The original of this work is part of The Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

What I am more interested in is the writer's note on the back, because the author is the well-known Australian painter Clifton Pugh, 1924-1990, writing from London to his friend Marie back in Arthur's Creek, Victoria Australia. She was the widow of a prominent Australian writer but I won't identify her further as she may still be with us, as is Pugh's third wife Judith. 


"Hello, some good news - the painting 
of Prince Phillip is going well. I'm
 painting in the grand Reception room of Windsor Castle. I did a
 portrait of Judith in the gilded
 air, and when Phillip saw it,
 it was the one he wanted 
so Judith is now "in the possession
 of", along with two landscapes
 of mine that he has had 
for some time. 
Love from us,

I can picture Clifton sitting there with his easel and painting equipment in those grand surroundings. He had previously painted portraits of many famous Australians. It appears that HRH Prince Phillip did not keep the painting, as it is now held in the art gallery of Benalla, a Victorian country town a couple of hours north of Melbourne. Unfortunately there's no image online, and Benalla is a bit too far for me to go check it out specially, although next time we're passing that way I may stop for a look, and perhaps if it is on view, I might offer the postcard to the gallery.

You can read an article written by Judith Pugh about Clifton here  on the Australian National Portrait Gallery web site.  The piece is illustrated by a painting of Judith in 1976, which may well be the one referred to as being 'in the gilded air' by Clifton in his postcard to Marie.  Another portrait included with the piece is that of the late Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, with whom, according to Judith, Clifton was to have gone skin diving on the day that Holt mysteriously disappeared. Pugh had cancelled the arrangement because it was his birthday and a birthday lunch was planned. In a blog last year I wrote about the mysterious death of Harold Holt on 17 December 1967.  If Clifton had not cancelled, perhaps the tragedy that unfolded that day might not have occurred.

 I've written previously  about my uncle Graeme Morrison and my distant cousin John Petrie who were both artists, and have also made mention of my grandmother Mona Forbes who attended art school in Christchurch NZ. Another distant cousin Charlotte Petrie studied at the Slade School of Art on London in the 1920s.  Here is an article about Miss Petrie's impressions of the Slade School, published after her return to NZ. We have one of her paintings.
Sunset on the Estuary at Invercargill, by Charlotte Petrie

 Below is the only photo I can offer of anyone actually painting at an easel, or in this case a blackboard. It shows one of our young sons and was taken back in 1984. Unfortunately I can't tell you that he went on to show any inherited artistic talent, but I'm sure he enjoyed himself at the time!

For more blogs about artists at work or at play, visit Sepia Saturday #356

Postscript: Years ago I did a photography class at a centre where a life drawing class was taking place at the same time, and we had to walk around the artists to get to the darkroom. Unfortunately we were not permitted to photograph the artists and their models as we passed by. I expect it was the models rather than the artists who didn't want to be photographed.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Feeding the pigeons?

My previous short pictorial post was added very, very late and consquently I don't know that anyone has even read it (,  but this week I'm getting in fairly early with what I think is a pretty good match for the prompt. 

Taken by my mother, the snap below shows yours truly in September 1954. My mother's caption for the photo is "Feeding the pigeons? In Trafalgar Square".  I'm not sure whether I had bread, cake or the corn that could be bought in the Square at that time, as in the prompt photograph, but I guess I was feeding myself as well as, or perhaps instead of the pigeons. Well I was only 21 months old at the time! As I've mentioned before, my parents and I were in the United Kingdom for a year while my father was studying in Cambridge under a research fellowship funded by the Nuffield Foundation. 

Short and sweet, as I was back then. I see that in 2000 pigeons in Trafalgar Square were declared to be pests because of the mess they make and the perceived health hazard. A group called Save the Pigeons was then formed to save, protect and continue feeding them. 
Feeding native birds in your own garden is not recommended either, because it isn't healthy for them and it can result in their becoming reliant on handouts rather than foraging for natural food. We are advised instead to plant native plants that will provide them with both food and habitat. You can read more about this here.

 For more blogs that may or may not be about feeding pigeons, click here

We went for a wander in Yarra Bend Park this morning and duck food was for sale at the Boatshed kiosk. The ducks started waddling hopefully towards us but we didn't buy any food. I sincerely hope that it whatever I was feeding the pigeons was suitable for human consumption, unlike these packets of duck food.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Pearly shells

Here is a very, very late addition to Sepia Saturday #354. The prompt photo brings to mind the tongue twister "She sells sea shells by the sea shore", which as I recently discovered was inspired by Mary Anning, the fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist from Lyme Regis in Dorset, who died almost 170 years ago, aged only 47. Mary began collecting as a young  girl and made many important marine fossil discoveries in her relatively short life. She didn't receive a great deal of credit for her achievements back then but they have been recognised since. You can read more about her here using this link to the Lyme Regis Museum.

Mary Anning

I don't have any shop photographs that I haven't already posted, but I thought people might like to see some photos of my own small shell collection. I didn't know much about identifying the different types of shells, I just liked their beauty and pretty colours, their patterns and symmetry, and I still do. They include for example cowries, scallops (the fan shaped shells), paua shell, sea urchins, cones, conches and horns.

 I've had some of these shells since collecting them as a child on the beaches of southern NSW, during our annual family camping holidays.


This large mother of pearl shell underneath the other three was given to me by my sister back in the days when she and her husband sailed around the Pacific islands en route from California to New Zealand in their small wooden boat. 

 I'm not sure where I found the fossil that looks like the imprint of two shells, but it may have come from a site at Pialligo near the Canberra airport, where fossil hunting and collecting is probably no longer possible.

I know some beaches these days have notices saying that collecting shells is not allowed, but hopefully this is not the case everywhere, and that shell collecting remains a simple pleasure for children fossicking along the shore line.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Framing a view

I've been taking a break from blogging for a few weeks, recovering from the Christmas influx of visitors, relaxing in the warm summer weather and feeling a certain lack  of inspiration, but here is my contribution to Sepia Saturday #353 . 

The first photo below was the one that immediately sprang to mind when I saw the prompt image of an archway. I haven't searched through my old family photographs this week, and haven't found any photographs of arches and stairs, but a quick search on Google+ found quite a few arches of various kinds that I've previously scanned, mostly taken on our holiday trips, so I've included a few of those too. What self-respecting church, castle, rampart, mansion or imposing entrance way does not boast an arch or three, outside, inside or both?

 Arches are scientifically designed and pleasing aesthetic structures, often beautifully and ornately decorated, as was this ancient arch at the Roman Forum, when we visited on a cool winter day in December 1992. It was our first trip to Europe, travellng by train for 6 weeks in mid-winter with with four children in tow, aged between 5 and 12. I sometimes wonder how we did it, but the answer probably lies in the fact that we were 25 years younger!  I do remember wandering through the Forum, with one eye on the scenery and the other making sure that no one decided to play hide and seek or get lost among the ancient ruins.

Framed view of the Forum, Rome

Sometimes the photographer is intent on photographing the arch itself, as above at the Frederiksborg Palace in Hellerod, Denmark, where I'm lurking in the shadows of the tunnel gateway, It was late one afternoon in April 2010 and the palace was closed by the time we reached it, but we enjoyed walking around the exterior of this majestic place. The fountain in the palace courtyard can be glimpsed through the tunnel.

I think the photo above was taken looking out into the light at one end of an internally lit walkway tunnel in Nuremburg Germany, whereas the shot below is taken from further inside and looking back in  the other direction.  I like the way daily life can be quite unobtrusively observed from a viewpoint under an archway or tunnel such as this.

I also like the way an arch will frame a particular view, even if it is only a gate, doorway or even a window that the photographer is looking through. To me arches seem to add an air of mystery or secretiveness to what is seen beyond, such as this glimpse of Beleura, an old mansion on the Mornington Peninsula here in Victoria, which you can read more about here, or this view below from the porch of the old Priory Hotel near Hereford outside Hereford, the wedding venue where our elder daughter got married in 2012. This photograph just shows one of the groomsmen retreating on what was rather an inclement day weatherwise, but I've previously posted a professional photograph of the bride arriving through the same arched entry here.  No doubt this arch will have framed photographs of many happy newlyweds.

A framed view of Lincoln Cathedral,  looking across from the ramparts of nearby Lincoln Castle.

Another venerable arch, this time in the ruins of Arbroath Abbey, 
in the town of Arbroath, north of Dundee.

This last archway photograph is the only one that has any relevance to my family history. It shows an entrance to buildings in College Hill, City of  London, and was taken while a fellow family historian and I were exploring the area where my 3x great grandfather John Daw and family resided in the 1841 census. No residential dwellings remain at the recorded address of 8 College Hill, but we liked to think that we were walking the same streets and perhaps seeing some of the same architectural features as our ancestor John Daw would have done, when he lived and worked in this area as a machine ruler in the trade of bookbinding. 

To look through more arches and perhaps take steps beyond, go to Sepia Saturday #353 . 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Have camera, will travel

The first Sepia Saturday prompt for 2017, # 349, shows an itinerant photographer plying his trade outside a restaurant in Columbus Ohio. My father Ian Cruickshank was a scientist, not a photographer by profession, but I think he would probably have listed photography as one of his favourite hobbies, along with gardening. Below are a few examples of photographs showing him with cameras slung around his neck. Of course, someone else must have taken these photographs, and naturally it  would have been my mother Jean who snapped him in the first three shots below.

                    This photograph from 1951, somewhere in New Zealand, is simply labelled
 "Ian and his camera".

Here's another photograph taken by Jean in about 1962, a back view of Ian taking a photograph of the Hampden Bridge in Kangaroo Valley NSW. This wooden suspension bridge was opened in 1898 and still survives. At the time we would have crossed it on our way to or from our annual beach holiday. Ian favoured the slide format, so I don't know how his photograph of the bridge turned out. There are many boxes of his slides that I have yet to sort through.

This third snap shows Ian with camera at the ready, together with my brother, my sister and myself and my maternal grandparents Jack and Mona Morrison, known to us children as Nan and Granddad Morrison. Jean and Ian were showing our NZ visitors the sights of Canberra, the nation's capital, when they visited us there in 1961. The monument in the background is the Australian-American War Memorial, which is a 73 metre high column topped with an 11 metre eagle and sphere, erected in 1954. I don't look terribly excited to be there, but you can see a photograph and read more about it here.

Here are several shots of Ian posing with his camera when he visited Japan for a scientific conference in either the late 1960s or early 1970s. These photos must have been taken either by a professional snapper or perhaps a fellow conference attendee. I must check those slide boxes to see what pictures Ian took there. I'm sure no one visits Japan without a camera!  This model gave many years of good service and I still have it, hidden away in a cupboard somewhere.  I also still have the beautiful kimono-clad Japanese doll that he brought back for me as a trip souvenir.

Here's a photograph taken by Dad of us in December 1964 at the fishing port of Eden on the NSW far south coast, and look who has a camera case around her neck! This may well have contained my first camera.

And finally, here's a photo I took of Mum and my sister Louisa with her camera, posing outside the tent on that same camping trip.

     Now for more blogs on this week's prompt photograph, just click here, and make it snappy!

Friday, 16 December 2016

First Christmas at Turramurra

When Sepia Saturday had this photo prompt a couple of years ago, I included photographs of family meals for Christmas 1988 with both sets of grandparents, who then lived in Canberra. You can read my previous blog here.
The following year my parents retired to Wamberal on the NSW Central Coast, about an hour north of Turramurra, the Sydney suburb where we lived. In the same year we also moved from a small house to a more spacious one, but still in Turramurra, and we decided that it was about time we stayed home and had our own Christmas dinner in our 'new' home. The photo below shows my parents, the children and me sitting around our newly purchased dining table for Christmas dinner, 1989. Our two younger children blowing party horns aren't sitting on dining chairs, perhaps because we couldn't trust them not to spill any food on the good chairs, or perhaps because they didn't like the feel of the upholstered seats on their bare legs. I think this must have been the first time I cooked a turkey, as up until then we had always spent Christmas at the home of one set of parents or the other.  In the second photo the family is downstairs posing with the Christmas tree.

The Christmas holiday season of 1989 was marred for many people by the fact that just three days later on December 28, the city of Newcastle and surrounding areas were rocked by a strong earthquake. Sadly thirteen people lost their lives and many more were injured and/or lost their homes as a result of the widespread damage caused by the quake. We were getting ready to drive to my parents' place when we heard a loud noise, but we did not realise what it was until we heard the news later that day. My parents were already back at their home in Wamberal, which is about an hour south of Newcastle. Unbeknownst to both us and them, their house had suffered serious structural damage to its foundations which became worse over the years but was not immediately apparent at the time. My father died in 2000 and it was not until my mother decided to sell in 2005 that the house was assessed as being in a precarious state and requiring extensive repairs. Consequently she was forced to sell at a price well below market value. The house now looks very different, having been  purchased by builders who were able to stabilize it and give it a complete makeover. 
Out of interest, a search of newspaper articles on the Trove website revealed that earthquakes have been experienced in the Newcastle area well before 1989. One report dated 1842 refers to 4 shocks having been experienced since August 1837. You can read the relevant article here.


We are flying up to Newcastle today, from where we'll drive to our beach unit and spend a few days with our daughter and family who are visiting from London. Bush fires rather than earthquakes are more of a potential hazard these days, but fingers crossed! We then return together to Melbourne for a rare full family Christmas gathering at home with all our children and their families, and I hope our two younger grandchildren will be able to make use of these bibs that I made for our younger daughter back in 1988. I'm practically the same age now as my mother was in 1989 and whilst my parents are no longer with us, my 91 year old mother-in-law will be coming and has made us a lovely Christmas pudding.

Best Wishes to all fellow Sepians! Here's our Christmas tree, suitably protected from inquisitive toddlers, I hope!

And finally, you might enjoy seeing this Gingerbread creation in the window of a local bakery, which will be donated to a children's charity or hospital. Santa is motorized and climbs up and down his ladder, although he never actually delivers. The sign says it took 60 hours of work, 50 kg of gingerbread, 15 kg of icing sugar, 5 pastry chefs ... and a partridge in a pear tree!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

No Christmas snow men or women here!

This week's Sepia Saturday photo prompt shows a couple who have apparently sculpted an attractive female snow maiden wearing a rather less than attractive two piece costume. Christmas in Australia falls in summer and therefore we normally expect to enjoy warm to hot weather. So far here in Melbourne we have only had a few isolated days of heat this summer, and in fact the forecast tonight mentioned the chance of snow showers on the ranges, but snow at Christmas anywhere in Australia is nevertheless a pretty rare occurrence. I've previously posted the few photos I have of winter snowmen here in an earlier blog.

 So instead I thought I would include a couple of photographs of sandy figures, which are more relevant than snowmen are to an Australian Christmas. We usually spend at least part of our Christmas summer break at the beach, and the first photo shows our youngest daughter aged 3 in 1990, buried up to her neck in sand, with exaggerated creations for arms and feet. 

The second photo is one I took a few years later at the San Diego Zoo in December 1996, when we took the children for a family driving holiday in the USA visiting San Diego, Arizona, Utah and Nevada before returning to LA and of course Disneyland.  This professionally sculpted lady hippo was adorned with a Christmas garland in honour of the festive season. I wonder what the real hippos in their nearby enclosure thought of her.

There was no snow to be seen in San Diego, but we did come across some of the white stuff in both the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park, where the thousands of strangely shaped natural pinnacle type structures called hoodoos were surrounded by tinged with drifts of white. With a little imagination, they could look like crowds of standing figures. The local Native American tribe believes the hoodoos were once the ancient Legend People, who were turned to stone because they had abused the land and its resources. Here are a few photos in both black and white and in colour, in which the snow stands out more clearly.


We'll be up at the beach for a few days next week, so just in case I don't manage to fit in another blog before we go, here's wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season from Turner Street, where one of our neighbours sneaked out in the dark of night last week and decorated all of the fifty plus plane trees that line the street. Quite an impressive effort which must have taken quite a while to complete and would have required many metres of red ribboning fabric! These big trees provide us with a lovely shady canopy in summer but they also make for lots of exercise when we have to sweep up enormous and seemingly endless piles of fallen leaves in autumn.


For more blogs on this snowy theme, or not, just click and go toSepia Saturday #347