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Morts Dock, Balmain

Date: c 1923
Overall: 208 × 260 mm
Display dimensions: 435 × 590 mm
Medium: Gelatin silver photograph, chloro bromide print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Anne Christoffersen, in memory of the artist
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00054638
Related Place:Balmain,

User Terms

    Harold Cazneaux, Australia's leading pictorialist photographer was interested in capturing the old and the new, the painterliness and atmosphere of landscape and sky. After moving from Adelaide to Sydney in 1904 he turned his camera on the working life of Sydney and especially the Harbour. It became his canvas as he commuted across it every day from his home in North Sydney. This view of Mort's Dock Balmain, crowded with all manner of working craft, including the dredge Triton and ferries Lady Carrington, Woollahra and Vaucluse set under a dramatic sky is a good example of his aesthetic interests.
    SignificanceThis chloro-bromide print from the mid 1920s represents the aesthetic interests of Harold Cazneaux, Australia's leading pictorialist photographer of the early twentieth century - with its celebration of the industrial in the choice of a working waterfront landscape, its crowds of vessels, and its atmospheric tone, composition and equally dramatic sky,
    HistoryHarold Cazneaux was working first as an artist-retoucher at Hammer Studio in the 1890s (He was born in 1878, was only 13 when his mother died in 1892) and had a low opinion of the formulaic studio portraiture. He was inspired to pursue art photography in the 1890s in Adelaide after seeing local work by John Kauffman and imported examples of the new impressionistic art photography movement known as Pictorial Photography.

    He moved to Sydney in 1904 and obtaining his own camera started taking photographs around Sydney in a Pictorial style stressing atmosphere and also nostalgia for the old Sydney world of the Rocks and local manual workers and residents. A parallel focus on Old Sydney was a feature of print makers at the turn of the century.
    His first one man show in 1909 included many harbour side city images often in soft focus taken early morning and after work on his way home to North Sydney and on weekend ferry excursions ot Watsons Bay and Mosman etc..

    From his arrival in Sydney Cazneaux was struck by the contrasts of old and new in the ‘big smoke’ of Sydney especially the harbourside shipping but treated these as atmospheric romantic images in a style well established by late Victorian era printmakers and painters. He was commissioned to photograph BHP plants in NSW and South Australian for the Company’s 1935 Jubilee. The industrial images combined both pictorialist atmosphere with the drama and scale of modernist celebrations of the machine age.

    From as early as 1915 with his art -deco striped child study The Bamboo Blind, Cazneaux developed a hybrid Pictorialist –Modernist style incorporating clearer geometric lines and brighter sunshine. In his work for The Home magazine Cazneaux most often worked in a sun-lit style although still exhibiting more impressionistic works in the Pictorialist Salons. In the late 1920s and1930s his modern style was the equal of his younger contemporaries like Max Dupain but always retained a human interest element and perspective even rather than the colder machine age aesthetic and distorting angles favoured by modernists.
    From Gael Newton
    Related People
    Photographer: Harold Cazneaux

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