• No title (Group of Koori men)

    No title (Group of Koori men) (c. 1847)

    Douglas T. KILBURN

    Full details
    Notes

    In 1847, the English-born photographer Douglas Kilburn opened Melbourne’s first commercial photographic studio. As a way of attracting attention to his business he took at least eight daguerreotypes of Aboriginal people from the area around Melbourne. These daguerreotypes, of which the gallery owns three, are the earliest surviving photographs of Australia’s Indigenous people and are a highlight of our collection.

    Although Kilburn intended the images as ethnographic studies rather than individual portraits, his unnamed sitters project a proud and dignified presence. Today, early photographs such as these have become important as signs of survival and continuity to Aboriginal people, particularly artists, who often make reference to them in their own works.

  • Evening coat

    Evening coat (c. 1935)

    LE LOUVRE, Melbourne (fashion house); Lillian WIGHTMAN (chief designer)

    Full details
    Notes
    Lillian Wightman established her boutique Le Louvre in Howie Place about 1929 before moving to 74 Collins Street. Le Louvre modelled itself on the grand couture houses of Paris and was the first boutique to import labels such as Chanel into Melbourne. Wightman also designed exclusive garments for Le Louvre's own label, including this stunning evening coat, c. 1935. The designer's skillful articulation of the complex collar and subtle gathering of the shoulder and sleeve construction have resulted in a sophisticated 3-D form.
  • Evening ensemble

    Evening ensemble 1955

    HALL LUDLOW, Melbourne (manufacturer); Hall LUDLOW (designer)

    Full details
    Notes

    Hal Ludlow began his career in Auckland working for the designer Trilby Yates. In 1947 he migrated to Australia, initially designing for Symphony Gowns in Melbourne. A year later he established his own salon on Collins Street, winning the Australian Gown of the Year Award in 1955 and 1959. In 1960 Ludlow moved to Sydney, and relocated to Hong Kong in 1963. Returning to Sydney in 1973, Ludlow resumed designing but limited his practice to a few select clients.

    One of the few designers who would do everything from choosing fabric to cutting and then stitching a garment, Ludlow created this dress and wrap in the same year that he won the Australian Gown of the Year Award. Rarely using a pattern, Ludlow draped and cut each garment over a form, paying close attention to proportion and detail. The use of white linen and a seemingly simple silhouette in the dress are accentuated by Ludlow's signature rows of parallel stitches. These construct and sculpt the flourish of linen blooms that frame the wearer's neck and face.

  • No title (Fashion illustration. Model Patricia Tuckwell)

    No title (Fashion illustration. Model Patricia Tuckwell) 1949

    Athol SHMITH

    Full details
    Notes

    In a career spanning more than 60 years, Athol Shmith applied his elegant style to portrait, advertising and fashion photography.

    Shmith's photographs of the 1940s highlight the opulence and sophistication of the haute-couture garments of the time. His photographs also suggest an implicit promise to the viewer that such style and beauty could be theirs.

    This elegant photograph, taken in 1949, shows the clean lines of a Christian Dior dress to wonderful effect. A reference to internationalism is neatly suggested by Shmith who shows the model holding an illustration of another model in a baroque French interior. However, unlike the lushness of the illustration, Shmith's photograph has a pared down quality that draws the viewer's attention to the distinctively lean shape of the dress.


Melbourne

Melbourne’s artists and their studios

Melbourne’s central business district is perhaps a misnomer when we consider it has also been – and continues to be – a central artistic district for some of Australia’s greatest artists and designers. Since the mid 1800s, artists have lived and worked in the city, establishing a network of studios that play an important role in the cultural history and life of the city.

  • A place for artists

    The importance of the visual arts in Melbourne was recognised with the opening of the purpose-built artists’ studios, Grosvenor Chambers, at 9 Collins Street, in early 1888. Painter Tom Roberts took a studio there, as did Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern. Other artists, such as Louis Abrahams, came and went, but Grosvenor Chambers became a focal point for social interaction between the city’s artists.

    Painters weren’t the only ones to set up studios in the city. English-born photographer Douglas Kilburn bought property in Little Collins Street in February 1847 and opened his commercial photographic studio – Melbourne’s first – a few months later.

    To attract attention to his new business he took daguerreotypes of Aboriginal people from the area around Melbourne. These are the earliest surviving photographs of Australia's Indigenous people. 21

  • The Paris end of Collins Street

    The Paris End of Collins Street remained a fashionable place for Melbourne’s artists to congregate and create into the twentieth century when they were joined by some of the city’s leading fashion designers, among them Lillian Wightman.

    Wightman established her boutique Le Louvre in Howie Place in about 1929 before moving to 74 Collins Street. Le Louvre modelled itself on the grand couture houses of Paris and was the first boutique to import labels such as Chanel into Melbourne. Wightman also designed exclusive garments for Le Louvre's own label, including this stunning evening coat, c. 1935.22

    Designer Hal Ludlow also opened his own salon on Collins Street in 1948 after designing for Symphony Gowns in Melbourne. Ludlow created this dress and wrap in 1955, the same year that he won the Australian Gown of the Year Award. The use of white linen and a seemingly simple silhouette in the dress are accentuated by Ludlow's signature rows of parallel stitches. 23

  • Fashion photography

    In late 1939, photographer Athol Shmith moved his studio to Collins Street. Expanding on his already thriving portrait business, Shmith launched into the world of fashion photography.

    Shmith's photographs of the 1940s highlight the opulence and sophistication of the haute-couture garments of the time. This elegant photograph, taken in 1949, shows the clean lines of a Christian Dior dress to wonderful effect. Shmith's photograph has a pared down quality that draws our attention to the lean shape of the dress.24

Endnotes


  • 21 Isobel Crombie and Susan van Wyk, 2nd Sight, Australian Photography in the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2002.

  • 22 Twister: the celebrated ingenious and exotic in fashion, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2002.

    23 Twister: the celebrated ingenious and exotic in fashion, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2002.

  • 24 Isobel Crombie, Athol Shmith: Photographer, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1989.