CARRINGTON PHOTO. GALLERIES
[McCUBBIN] Clara Crosbie, Aged 12 years, now on Exhibition at the Australian Waxworks, opposite the Cathedral, Will explain how she was lost on May 14th, and found by Mr. Cowan, on June 3rd, 1885, and how she lived in the Bush for 21 days Without Food.
Sydney : Carrington Photo. Galleries, . Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, mount 105 x 63 mm; recto with photographer’s imprint ‘Carrington Galleries, 635 George Street, Haymarket’; verso with extended caption in various fonts, followed by ‘This picture was taken at Carrington Photo. Galleries, Haymarket Arcade, George Street, Sydney ….’; both the albumen print and mount are in fine condition.
Clara Crosbie was lost in the bush near Lilydale, east of Melbourne, for three weeks in mid-1885. According to Peter Pierce (The Country of Lost Children: An Australian Anxiety, p.51ff), her temporary disappearance was possibly the result of a deliberate attempt to escape from a troubled family situation, rather than being a case of an innocent ‘babe in the wood’. Remarkably, she survived her ordeal, and subsequently became a minor celebrity for a number of months. Several illustrations depicting her rescue were published in contemporary newspapers and periodicals, including a wood engraving, ‘Finding Clara Crosbie after being three weeks lost in the bush’, which appeared in the Australasian Sketcher on June 29, 1885. It is likely that the story and published illustrations of Clara provided the inspiration for the artist Frederick McCubbin’s series of paintings depicting children lost in the bush, most notably Lost (1886) (ibid., p.54ff). Although entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to take Clara to Sydney and put her on public display at the Australian Waxworks, nothing is known of her life after her brief moment of fame had passed.
We can locate no other copy of this portrait of Clara by Carrington Galleries, for which the photographer created a tableau vivant in his studio; furthermore, it appears that the present photograph is the only photographic portrait of Clara that has survived.