UA1-WA:P2-p3-Ex Decorate a town house

In this exercise I am a museum curator selecting artwork for a room in a terraced house. Additional requirements include: provincial town; modest residence; built early nineteenth-century; occupied by merchant and professional families. After some struggles I’ve decided to interpret “early nineteenth-century” very loosely and “provincial town” as the suburbs of Melbourne (not taking a swipe in any traditional Sydney/Melbourne rivalry, it just sits with the rest of my scenario).

terrace_planOn the right is the floorplan of the ground floor of the house. This is actually based on a 1894 plan drawn up by Contractor McDonald and Chalmers for a house in North Melbourne. The original plan is seen in a video on the Culture Victoria website. This version has my own adjustments to make it more modest.

Working from the bottom of the plan, there is a small garden at the front of the building then a step up to the open verandah. A door leads into the hallway, with the parlour and then the dining room on the right. Stairs go up to the bedroom level. The hall turns right, leading to the kitchen and beyond it a scullery. I think this is different to many English buildings of the period which would have the kitchen and other utilities in a basement level. Under the stair landing and just before the door to the kitchen there is a door leading outside. The back part of the building is narrower to allow light to enter the centre areas of the house.

My current task is to select works for the parlour. Blurring my pretend curator and real-life beings, I’ve decided to guide my selections by an imaginary period in the life of a great-great… uncle, John Chester Jervis, making him and his sister the first residents of the house.
The real John Chester Jervis was born in 1823 in London. He arrived in Hobart in the early 1840s, and abbreviating all the detail of a long and adventurous life, he married, became manager and then owner of various sheep stations in Victoria, had a son, lost his wife, brought his sister out from England to look after him, introduced wheat and built a mill, and in 1870 was bought out by other squatters concerned the wheat would attract selectors. In real family history John Chester, having made his fortune, returned to England and lived out his life between London and Nice, pursuing his interest in amateur photography. For the purpose of this exercise I have decided that John Chester hadn’t done quite so well financially and also that he and his sister stayed in Melbourne for several years in the 1870s before returning “home”.

As curator, I have included in my research contact with a descendant of John Chester who herself emigrated from Britain in the 1950s. She has provided me with a number of photographs taken in his homes in Nice and London slightly later than my period. She has also given me a recent photograph of some items either passed down from John Chester or of a similar age.
john_chester_room1john_chester_deskAlthough my major focus is the artwork, the rosewood desk in the modern photograph is of particular interest to the museum project. It was brought to Australia by John Chester’s sister, travelled around Victoria and then returned to England in the later 1870s. It has come once more to Australia and has been here since the 1980s, passed down through members of the English family. It would be wonderful to find a similar piece to put in our parlour.

weymouthThe first artwork I am considering is a coloured etching of Weymouth.

Members of the extended Jervis family lived in Weymouth and the area was probably known to John Chester. The print would remind immigrants to Australia of the home and connections they have left. The print is modest in size, suitable for a modest residence, while the hand colouring increase its attractions.

jcj_skinner_proutMy second selection is another engraving, this time of an Australian subject. It is from a work by John Skinner Prout, a popular early Australian artist. I believe I have located evidence of the original painting in a Lawson Menzies auction earlier this year (see Of course the original painting would have been beyond the budget of a resident of the terrace house, just as it is now beyond the budget of the museum.

John Chester Jervis spent over 30 years of his adult life in Australia, often in the bush. I think he would have liked a reminder of those years on his walls.

jcj_mapAlong the same lines, a map showing the area of some of his exploits could well hang in John Chester’s residence. Possibly it would be more appropriate for the dining room – I can image him standing before it, cigar in one hand and port in the other, telling tall tales of youthful adventures.

This work is an example of what I am hoping to find among current museum holdings. The area shown here is actually in New South Wales, not appropriate for final selection for the house.

jcj_oval_girlA number of oval portraits can be seen on the walls in my photographic documents. Photographs of loved ones in the home country would have been much appreciated by new settlers.

I suspect the example shown here is early 20th century, a bit later in period than I really need. The young girl in the photograph has an indirect relationship to the Jervis family, but for the museum I would try to locate a better option from Jervis family sources.

jcj_samplerThis sampler was actually stitched by John Chester Jervis’s wife, Janet Young. It is quite a large work and very nicely stitched (the scale can be seen in the modern photograph above, where the sampler is hanging above the rosewood desk). I think this memento of his late wife would have been suitable for hanging in the parlour – a room often decorated in a more feminine style.

It would be wonderful to have the original work, so closely connected to the original residents, hanging in the museum. We are currently discussing possibilities of at least a medium-term loan from the family.

jcj_studiophotoThis studio photo was taken by John Chester Jervis himself. As a very keen photographer he would be sure to have examples of his own works on the walls and on the screen that can be seen behind him in the first photograph above. In fact all the old photographs of interiors shown above were the work of John Chester – presumably an assistant would have been involved.

I have gone just over the four or five works that were requested. Based on the photographic evidence I think it is important to have enough to get coverage of the walls and be able to hang works in groups. The parlour of this house is not large, but I still need to achieve a slightly cluttered look (to modern eyes at least). In fact if the project went ahead it would be good to look for some medium sized prints to include, to get additional variety of scale.

UA1-WA:P2-p3-Ex Decorate a town house
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part two: From the High Renaissance to Post-Impressionism
Project three: Depicting history – neo-classicism, Romanicism and realism
Exercise: Decorate a town house

1 Response to “UA1-WA:P2-p3-Ex Decorate a town house”

  1. 1 John Chester Jervis’s earrings | Fibres of Being Trackback on July 6, 2018 at 2:52 pm

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October 2013

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