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26 Jul 21

Framers in Focus: Gill’s Fine Art Gallery


Framers in Focus: A series of essays on 19th century Melbourne frame makers, produced by the NGV Centre for Frame Research.

For over 50 years, Albert Gill and his sons Alfred Naylor Gill and Albert Luther Gill, operated farming and art-related businesses in the Melbourne suburbs of South Yarra, Prahran and St Kilda. Gill’s Fine Art Gallery advertised as a picture frame manufacturer and gilder, and the family also imported frames and mouldings. Albert Senior, also known as Alberto Gillini, and Alfred Naylor were also both artists, who presented a combined exhibition of 117 paintings at the Melbourne Athenaeum in 1913.1The NGV collection includes a painting by Alberto Gillini, Swanston Street, 3252-4, purchased in 1955, while several works by Naylor Gill are held by the State Library of New South Wales.,2There are several newspaper accounts of the exhibition, including The Age, 4 June 1913, p.15. Albert Luther also worked in picture framing, later selling paintings and antiques, and was known for holding exhibitions of artists such as Norman Lindsay, Streeton, Bunny, Longstaff and H.S. Power.3The Bulletin, 30 June 1943, p.9 and The Bulletin, 24 June, 1953, p.19. The business’ address in the early twentieth century was at 1 Chapel Street, the current location of the Astor Theatre.

The NGV collection includes one frame with a Gill’s Fine Art Gallery label, on E. M. Boyd, To the workhouse, 1891. The frame is classical revival*A nineteenth century frame style based on ancient Greek and Roman architecture. in style, featuring laurel leaf and berry ornament*Laurel leaves (also known as bay leaves), often shown with their berries, and oak leaves, are two natural forms often seen in frame ornament, appearing as repeated patterns. , as well as a sanded flat.*The application of a granular material to a tacky surface to create a textured effect. Commonly sand is used, but other materials can be substituted for different effects. It is usually applied to flat sections of the frame. An inscription on the back of the frame indicates that it was made prior to acquisition by the NGV in 1893.4John Payne, Framing the Nineteenth Century: Picture Frames 1837–1935, The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd., Mulgrave, Victoria, 2007, p.100. However, curiously, the address on the framer’s suggests a later dating, between 1906-1912. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown.


Emma Minnie Boyd, To the workhouse, 1891, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of Mrs Emma a’Beckett, 1893.

Framer’s label from the back of Emma Minnie Boyd, To the workhouse, 1891.

Biographical information

Albert Gill was born on 17 May 1840 in Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. His father was Thomas Gill, a chair turner by trade. Albert married Elizabeth Townsend and in England they had two children Marion (1861-1879) and Albert Luther (1865-1943) in Windsor, Berkshire, U.K. The family arrived in Melbourne in 1871 and they had two more children, Alfred Naylor (1872-1945) and Elizabeth Sarah (b.1875). Albert Gill (Senior) passed away on 1 January, 1932.5Design and Art Australia online, ‘Albert Gill’, https://www.daao.org.au/bio/albert-gill/, accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

Albert Luther Gill was also known as Lou Gill, Lou Gillini, Luther Gill and Louis Gill.6Design and Art Australia online, ‘Albert Luther Gill’, https://www.daao.org.au/bio/albert-luther-gill/, accessed 2 Oct. 2020. He married Helena Lucy Hughes in 1892 in Moonee Ponds and they had two daughters, Gwendoline Ruby (b.1893) and Vera Ila (b.1903). The couple separated after 11 years of marriage.7Prahran Telegraph, 25 Sep. 1909, p.5 Albert married Edith Naomi Edwards Harold in 1934, after Helena’s death in 1932 in Colac, Victoria. Helena died aboard the ship the ‘Casino’ that wrecked at Apollo Bay as she was working as a stewardess.8The Age, 13 July, 1932, p.8

Alfred Naylor Gill was also known as Naylor Gill. He married Anna May Kewley (1881-1968) in 1919.

Melbourne business addresses for Gill (based on Maddocks 1999*)

Business name Address Year
Gill, A. 51 Toorak Rd, South Yarra 1879
Gill, Albert 25 Toorak Rd, South Yarra 1880-1886
148 Chapel St, South Yarra 1887
251 Chapel St, Prahran 1888
267 Chapel St, Prahran 1889
Dixon’s Buildings, Grenville St, Prahran 1890, 1891
Gill Jervois St, St Kilda 1892
Gill, Alfred 126 High St, St Kilda 1894-1897
116 High St, St Kilda 1899, 1900
Gill, A. 116 High St, St Kilda 1901, 1902, 1904, 1905
183 Commercial Rd, South Yarra 1903
Gill and Son, importers of frames and mouldings 1 Chapel St East, St Kilda, opposite All Saints Church 1906
Gill, Naylor 1 Chapel St, St Kilda 1907
Gill, Alfred 1 Chapel St, St Kilda 1908-1910, 1912
Gill, Albert L. 128 Chapel St, Prahran 1910, 1911
Gill, Alfred 170 High St East, Prahran 1917-1920
Gill, A 170 High St East, Prahran 1922-1930

*These include businesses listed under ‘Carvers, gilders, picture framemakers and printsellers’. Listings under other trade categories are not shown.

Further reading

Dr Hilary Maddocks, ‘Picture Framemakers in Melbourne c.1860-1930’, Melbourne Journal of Technical Studies in Art: Frames, The University of Melbourne, 1999, pp. 1-32.

John Payne, Framing the Nineteenth Century: Picture Frames 1837–1935, The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd., Mulgrave, Victoria, 2007.

Read more about frames at the NGV’s Centre for Frame Research

Notes

1

The NGV collection includes a painting by Alberto Gillini, Swanston Street, 3252-4, purchased in 1955, while several works by Naylor Gill are held by the State Library of New South Wales.

2

There are several newspaper accounts of the exhibition, including The Age, 4 June 1913, p.15.

3

The Bulletin, 30 June 1943, p.9 and The Bulletin, 24 June, 1953, p.19.

4

John Payne, Framing the Nineteenth Century: Picture Frames 1837–1935, The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd., Mulgrave, Victoria, 2007, p.100.

5

Design and Art Australia online, ‘Albert Gill’, https://www.daao.org.au/bio/albert-gill/, accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

6

Design and Art Australia online, ‘Albert Luther Gill’, https://www.daao.org.au/bio/albert-luther-gill/, accessed 2 Oct. 2020.

7

Prahran Telegraph, 25 Sep. 1909, p.5

8

The Age, 13 July, 1932, p.8