• Modern and Contemporary Austra auction at Christies

    Sale 5038

    Modern and Contemporary Australian Art

    23 September 2010, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 7

    William Blamire Young (1862-1935)

    VIIth Australian Light Horse Victorian Mounted Rifles, 1904; B. Battery. Royal Australian Field Artillery, 1904

    Price Realised  

    William Blamire Young (1862-1935)
    VIIth Australian Light Horse Victorian Mounted Rifles, 1904; B. Battery. Royal Australian Field Artillery, 1904
    the first signed 'BLAMIRE YOUNG' (lower right), the second signed 'BLAMIRE YOUNG.' (lower left), both with titles on their original gilt frames
    oil on canvas
    16 x 36in. (40.7 x 91.4cm.) (2)


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    Major General Hutton, the 'father of the Australian Army', was a British Army officer who held three colonial appointments during his army career. The first of these was as commander of the New South Wales Force between 1893 and 1896, where despite a small force and little money, he improved training, formed regiments into brigades, raised new corps and imposed a khaki uniform. Back in England he propagated his ideas on Australian defence in an address 'Our Comrades of Greater Britain' delivered in 1898: 'The Australian is a born horseman. With his long, lean muscular thighs he is more at home on a horse than on his feet, and is never seen to a greater advantage than when mounted and riding across bush or a difficult country... Fine horsemen, hardy, self-reliant, and excellent marksmen, they are the beau ideal of Mounted Riflemen... Accustomed to shift for themselves in the Australian bush, and under the most trying conditions of heat and cold, they would thrive where soldiers unaccustomed to bush life would die'.

    'His final colonial appointment was as General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Australia in 1901, where his task was to amalgamate the armies of each state into an Australian military force to train for participation in modern warfare. This task was to be completed with as little expense as possible and led to retrenchment, disbandments and lower pay, which, combined with an emphasis on drill and better discipline led to much discordance. However by 1904 the task of forming an Australian army was largely achieved, despite a post Boer War decline in martial training and recruitment. He terminated his appointment later that year after a furious quarrel and resignation, upon which he returned to England. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KCB) in 1912.' (ADNB)

    Blamire Young's two paintings may have been a special commission painted for Hutton. Given its exhibition history, the first may otherwise have been bought off the walls of the Art Society show in September 1904 (Hutton headed home at the end of the year). 1904 had seen the publication of Hutton's second annual report on the Military Forces of the Commonwealth of Australia. Hutton's reports shaped the modern Australian army in the years immediately following Federation, years which saw the creation of new Light Horse and Artillery regiments celebrated here in Blamire Young's two paintings.

    'The [VIIth Australian Light Horse] regiment may claim to have sprung from the Victorian Mounted Rifles, a volunteer organisation dated from 1885. In 1891, the Victorian Mounted Rifles was organised in two Battalions, the 1st having its headquarters at Melbourne with "A" to "F" Companies, composted of detachments hailing from Broadford, Yea, Avdnel, Cathkin, Mansfield, Murchison, Rushworth and Shepparton. In the Federal re-organisation of 1903 these detachments were formed into the 7th Australian Light Horse Regiment (Victorian Mounted Rifles) a designation it held until 1912 when 4 squadrons of the 7th became the 15th Light Horse (Victorian Mounted Rifles). As such its title remained until 1921 when it was styled the 20th Light Horse Regiment (Victorian Mounted Rifles). R.K. Peacock, 'Evolution of Australian Light Horse Regiments 1841-1935', unpublished mss [c1936], p.20.

    These are rare early pictures by Blamire Young, painted before he concentrated almost exclusively on watercolour, and share the decorative art nouveau format of a number of his paintings from the early 1900s (notably the large work on paper 'Buckley acting as interpreter at Indented Head', 1901, in Geelong Art Gallery) and later woodcuts such as his advertising card for 'Boomerang Brandy' (1920s), where a frieze of figures sits in a landscape, the verticals and patterns of the natural forms, here the trees and undergrowth, cropping and framing the action. The format acknowledges Young's years in England in the mid-1890s where his theatrical style emerged within the prevalent fin de siècle art nouveau movement, "Japonisme", the friezes of Frank Brangwyn and the posters and woodcuts of the Beggarstaff Brothers Pryde and Nicholson. He returned to Australia with 'a poster virus' and would work with the Lindsays and Harry Weston, producing advertising posters through the late 1890s. These two pictures are important additions to Blamire Young's early work, of which very little appears to have survived.

    Provenance

    Major General Sir Edward Thomas Henry 'Curley' Hutton (1848-1923) ("Hutton Estate" labels on the backing paper).
    Private collection, England.


    Exhibited

    Sydney, Royal Art Society of New South Wales, Sept. 1904. cat. no.59 ('Australian Light Horse -- Victoria').