JOHNSTONE, O'SHANNESSY & CO.
Photograph of the R.H. Horne portrait medallion by Charles Summers, Melbourne, circa 1865.
Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 103 x 63 mm (mount), recto with contemporary inscription in ink ‘R.H. Horne’, verso with a second inscription in the same hand ‘From a medallion by C. Summers, Melbourne’, and imprinted ‘Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co. Artist Photographers, 3 Bourke Street, East, next the Post Office, Melbourne’; both the albumen print and mount are in very good condition.
English poet and critic Richard Henry (or Hengist) Horne (1802-1884) was resident in Victoria from 1852 to 1869. He initially worked on a gold escort and as a goldfields commissioner at Rushworth and Heathcote, before establishing the Tahbilk vineyard near Nagambie. From the mid 1850s he became a key figure in Melbourne’s literary and theatre community. He was founding president of the Garrick Club, and a prominent member of the Yorick Club, which included such luminaries as Marcus Clarke and Adam Lindsay Gordon. His epic poem, Orion, was the first book of poetry published in Australia (Melbourne, 1854). A reproduction of the Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co. photograph of Summers’ portrait medallion of the poet appeared as the frontispiece to the 1872 and 1874 editions of Orion.
Horne’s contemporary and fellow artist, English sculptor Charles Summers (1825-1878) was resident in Victoria from 1854 to 1867. Like Horne, Summers initially went to the goldfields, working a claim at Tarnagulla which failed to make him his fortune. Back in Melbourne, he became an important contributor to the artistic life of the city. He arranged annual art exhibitions and was a founder of the Victorian Society of Fine Arts in October 1856. Although Summers is undoubtedly best known for his bronze monument to the explorers Burke and Wills – Melbourne’s oldest piece of public art – he also made numerous fine portraits, busts and medallions of colonial public figures, including Charles Sturt, Sir Redmond Barry and John Pascoe Fawkner. Summers left Melbourne for England in May 1867, and ultimately enjoyed a successful career as a sculptor in Rome.
Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co.’s studio was located at 3 Bourke Street from 1865. This carte de visite of the Horne portrait medallion was probably taken in that year or a short time afterwards – but certainly prior to Summers’ departure.
The State Library of New South Wales holds the only example of this carte de visite in Australian collections, although its copy lacks the Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co. imprint and is consequently catalogued as being by an ‘unknown photographer’. It also holds a plaster cast of Summers’ work (215 mm diameter) titled ‘Portrait plaque of Richard Hengist Horne, 1865? / Charles Summers’ (Call no. P*1); another example in plaster is in the National Portrait Gallery, London (229 mm diameter).