An image of National Art Gallery, Sydney

Harold Cazneaux

(New Zealand, Australia 30 Mar 1878 – 19 Jun 1953)

National Art Gallery, Sydney

Not on display
Further information

This photograph of the Art Gallery of New South Wales is a bromoil print. It was created in a process where a gelatin silver photograph was bleached and fixed, then soaked in water. A greasy ink was then applied and gradually built up to the required density 1. Cazneaux has tinted the image with a green hue in this process. Like other images Cazneaux took around Sydney, such as The Old Treasury building (circa 1910), it includes the branch of a tree as a stencil or frieze in the top edge of the frame. The silhouetted leaves create a flatness for the foreground which is then contrasted to the depth generated by the variegated stone masonry of the Gallery’s façade.
Harold Cazneaux was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1878. His parents, Pierce Mott Cazneau and Emma Florence (née Bentley) worked in commercial studios in New Zealand before returning to settle permanently in Adelaide during the early 1890s. At the age of 18 Cazneaux went to work alongside his father at Hammer & Co studio as a retoucher. He moved to Sydney in 1904 to join the larger portrait firm, Freeman’s quickly ascending to the position of ‘chief operator’ (as camera portraitists were known). Studio work was highly formulaic, with little scope for creativity. Cazneaux used his time walking to and from work to experiment with pictorialist aesthetics 1. The Photographic Society of New South Wales organised an exhibition of Cazneaux’s photographs in 1909, the first such solo exhibition of its kind in Australia. In 1916 he and fellow pictorialist photographer, Cecil Bostock founded the Sydney Camera Circle. The group was particularly interested in the how pictorialism could be adapted to and extended within an Australian context. The mechanised, standardised and frenetic pace of Freeman’s increasingly took its toll on Cazneaux’s creativity and health, and he resigned in 1917. He moved with his wife and daughters to the Sydney suburb of Roseville, and in 1920 he was employed as the official photographer for The Home magazine. This new position let him work in a varied indoor and outdoor environments. In 1938 Cazneaux was awarded an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of London. He continued to work until his death in 1953.
1. Baldwin G 1991, ‘Looking at photographs: a guide to technical terms’, J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles pp 11-12
2. Newton G 1988, ‘Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra p 85

circa 1915
bromoil photograph, green tone
16.1 x 19.2 cm image/sheet; 17.3 x 20.4 cm card 1; 28.0 x 27.0 cm card 2
Signature & date

Signed l.r. card 1, pencil "H. Cazneaux". Not dated.

Gift of the Cazneaux family 1975
Accession number