Way To Go! Art Remembering: Warrnambool Impressions of Tom Humphrey

Tom Humphrey and daughter Mollyu

In 1925 a grieving widow donated art works to Victorian galleries in the hope her late husband would not be forgotten, and though that’s pretty much what  happened Warrnambool however, has a special way of remembering talented Australian Impressionist Tom Humphrey (1858-1922).

Warrnambool’s Art Gallery  (WAG) is set to rehang Humphrey’s formative work The Way To School’ (originally ‘Springtime”) which also features in this week’s ABC Open’s project ‘Art Remix: Digital Interpretations of WAG Artworks, a callout to artists to ‘recreate’ The Way To School or any of twenty other artworks in WAG’s permanent collection.

The Way To School was first exhibited by Humphrey in 1888, but WAG curator Murray Bowes says though the gallery’s archive records the painting as being acquired the same year, the circumstances of the acquisition are not clear.

Alice Mills donates The Road To Bright to Ballarat Art Gallery

It’s next-to-impossible to find Tom Humphrey in national biographies and art tomes, and where so it is only a brief mention of him as ‘a friend’ of Impressionist-greats like Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, David Davies, Fred McCubbin and Jane Sutherland.

Yet Humphrey studied and exhibited alongside these famous Aussie Impressionists, who emerged in the 1880’s out from under the heavy, European-influenced ‘colonial’ approach to Australian art with its analytical, sense-making of this ‘new’ country and its unfamiliar flora, fauna and landscapes.

The  new wave Impressionists were hungry to explore Australia’s landscape through fresh eyes, attempting to capture the light and sights of the post-settler landscape through new painting techniques and practices that better made sense of their way of knowing the land.

And with fifty years of European settlement under its belt, the lively city of Melbourne at the heart of the colonial state Victoria was quite a place for eager young settler or colonial-born artists keen on pushing artistic boundaries.

Obituary: Tom Humphrey (1859-1922). Source: The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946) Saturday 30 September 1922, TROVE, NLA.
Obituary: Tom Humphrey (1859-1922). Source: The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) Saturday 30 September 1922, TROVE, NLA.

Though absent from the official art biographies thankfully Humphrey’s history can be pieced together through essential history archival databases: TROVE online by the National Library of Australia with its newspapers online is an invaluable and priceless tool for fleshing out Australian history. The PRO (Public Records Office of Victoria) and its online databases are an absolute must for researching Victorians and though its rare I give a shoutout to commercial genealopies, FindMyPast is undeniably a particularly valuable tool for researching the Scots, Irish and English via its online newspaper databases and access to church, census and directory records and especially mariner’s records.

Tom Humphrey made his way to Australia as a paying ‘unassisted passage’ immigrant:  born in 1859 in the parish of St Nicholas in Aberdeen, Scotland he migrated to Melbourne in June 1871 aboard the Star of India, arriving at Melbourne along with four of his siblings, a halfsister, mother and stepfather.

Tom was the youngest of six known Humphrey siblings and only his eldest brother John is not listed aboard the Star of India:  John Leslie (1849-), George (1849-1925), Christina Henderson  (1851-1886) James (1853-), and Isabella (c1857-). Tom’s half sister Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Leslie Deans (1869-)was born two years before the family made their way to Victoria.

Tom’s  Foveray-born father George Humphrey (1817 – 1860) had gone to sea as an apprentice in 1836 before obtaining his Master’s ticket in 1844. Humphrey senior commanded several vessels in the Aberdeen trade  but after his marriage to Mary Leslie (c1826  -1886)  set himself on shore,  as a Wine and Spirit merchant in Aberdeen.

When Tom was just 2 years of age his father died and sometime in the next decade his mother remarried another mariner in the Aberdeen trade – Captain Williams Deans (1809-1878).

When Tom  was about 9 years of age the Deans-Humphrey family made the onerous sea voyage to Australia, and it is the connections to sea which might explain Tom’s later-in-life interest with seascapes, for earlier in his artist career it was impressions of landscapes that foremost commanded his artistic endeavors.

After disembarking at Port Phillip, Tom’s family settled themselves in the suburb of Richmond, in Cremorne street and somewhere in the next decade Tom either continued or embarked on his art career along with the band of Impressionist artists who sought to change Australia’s art landscapes.

Eagle & Jones (1994) reference Humphreys in their ‘A Story of Australian Painting’  albeit briefly. They note him as a friend of Jane Sutherland (1855-1928) ‘an artist whose paintings got better and better through the 1890’s’, who however was ‘hampered by being female’ and for whom ‘the large, ambitious, nationalistic images were out of her province’ (p.83) Because Sutherland mixed with male artists, local suffragettes had designated her  as one of the leading lady artist of Victoria of the ‘open air school’  (p.85) but rather she chose to ‘throw in her lot’ with ‘the male artists’.

Photo of artist Tom Roberts, taken by photographer Alice Mills, the wife of artist Tom Humphrey. source: National Portrait Gallery http://www.portrait.gov.au/portraits/2001.11/tom-roberts
Photo of artist Tom Roberts, taken by photographer Alice Mills, the wife of artist Tom Humphrey. source: National Portrait Gallery http://www.portrait.gov.au/portraits/2001.11/tom-roberts

In  1885 Tom Roberts, the designated ‘Father’ of Impressionist art in Australia returned to Melbourne from London  and  gathered up his ‘old friends’ for a painting excursion as well as for the establishment of a ‘strictly professional art society’. Sutherland accompanied Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Louis Abrahams on painting expeditions to Box Hill between 1886-1888  (Arthur Streeton joined later jaunts), and from their May 1888 exhibition stemmed commentary of a ‘Box Hill School’ with artists of the ‘same feeling, a common thought, and a similar mannerism, while they hunt on the same Box Hill camping ground’(p.86).

“When Roberts returned from overseas in 1885, he and McCubbin went on painting trips, camping at Housten’s farm at Box Hill, at Mentone on Port Phillip Bay and later in the Heidelberg area. Here they were joined by Arthur StreetonCharles Conder and others, these first camps marking the beginning of what came to be called the Heidelberg school. Nicknamed ‘The Proff’ because of his philosophizing, McCubbin was a strong advocate of the particularly national element in the work of the school, drawing his inspiration both from the earlier traditions of colonial art and the growing sense of nationalism of the time.” (David Thomas’ ‘Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography ).

McQueen in his ‘Tom Roberts’ (1996) references Tom Humphrey as one of a number of ‘old friends’ whom Roberts visited in latter years when on another return to Melbourne – this time at wars end. And in 1925 when Humphrey’s widow held an exhibition of his works at the Fine Art Society’s Gallery in Exhibition street Melbourne it was Tom Roberts who wrote the forward for Humphrey’s exhibition catalogue, a copy of which is now held in the State Library of Victoria.

‘An intimate and tender spirit of the Bush in its quiet moods’ were the keynotes expressed in Humphrey’s artwork on exhibition in 1925 some of which,  Roberts said where done by Humphrey  ‘in the early eighties near and about Blackburn while Humphrey associated with Fred Paterson, McCubbin and Mather’.

As McCubbin, Roberts and Streeton were on painting jaunts to Box Hill 1886 – 1888 that would make Humphrey’s painting works at Blackburn probably in the pre-1886 era,before Roberts returned to Melbourne.

Fred McCubbin (1855-1917) was Australian-born but like Tom Humphrey had Scottish-born parents. At age 14 McCubbin was placed in a solicitor’s office but soon after joined the family’s bakery business driving a baker’s car, before becoming apprenticed to a coach-painter. In 1869 McCubbin enrolled at the Artisans’ School of Design, Carlton and later studied drawing under Thomas Clark at the National Gallery of Victoria’s school of design. He completed his coach-painting apprenticeship by 1875 but with the death of his father suspended his studies until the following year He was able to continue his studies under O.R Campbell and after joining the school of painting under Eugene von Guerard in 1877, he found Tom Roberts one of his fellow students.  Under the tutelage of G.F Folingsby he was encouraged to turn to the local scene for inspiration, ‘like writers Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson (who) were finding inspiration in the colonial way of life’ (Gleeson 1976, p.224). McCubbin remained at the art school and in 1883 was awarded the trustees’ first prize in the annual students exhibition. He also studied and exhibited at the Victorian Academy of Art (1876, 1879-1882) and in the latter year was awarded a silver medal for figure drawing in life-class and elected an associate.

According to Roberts, Tom Humphrey was also a student of the National Gallery, but who afterwards ‘went along his own lines’ (Roberts, 1925, ibid).

The ‘Fred Paterson’ whom Roberts referred to in Humphrey’s catalogue introduction as a painting companion of Humphrey  is  either probably John Ford Paterson (1851-1912) a fellow Scot to Humphrey,  or his brother Hugh Paterson (1856-) who later married Humphrey’s half-sister ‘Lizzie’ Leslie Deans in 1889 at Camberwell. J.F Paterson   had migrated to Melbourne in 1872 having studied at the Royal Scottish Academy Schools in Edinburgh but returned to Scotland three years later, to continue his study of landscape painting. Influenced by the ‘Glasgow school’ Paterson exhibited in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester and frequented the Savage Club in London and it was 1884 before he returned to live in Australia,  so if he was painting around Blackburn with Humphrey, McCubbin and Mather in the early 1880’s it would have to been after his return in 1884.

The other artist who accompanied Humphrey, McCubbin and Paterson into the bush was yet another Scotsman. John Mather(1848-1916  )  who became a very popular and best selling Australian artist had originally migrated to Australia in 1878,  having studied at the Royal Institute of Fine Arts in Glasgow. He made a living as a house decorator in Melbourne until he secured a position painting the inside dome of the Exhibition Building for the considerable sum of two thousand pounds, giving him some financial independence to continue his art. ‘Although Mather practised the plein air method of painting introduced by Louis Buvelot, he kept aloof from the ‘Australian Impressionism’ of his contemporaries, Streeton, Roberts, Conder and others.

After Blackburn, and for a change of scene Tom Humphrey moved to Chartresville in company with ‘Fox and Tucker’ where he ‘passed to the expression of wider subjections –cliff, shore and open sea’ (Roberts, 1925 ibid). As it was 1893 that Tucker and Fox established the Melbourne School of Art  and 1894 that they conducted ‘a lively, outdoor summer school at Charterisville’  – the former home of artist Walter Withers at Eaglemount (Gleeson, p.248)  the change of scene Humphrey made was likely 1892-1894.

Emanuel Phillips Fox (1865-1915) was an Australian born-lad like McCubbin, and who had matriculated at 15 and taken up drawing lessons from John Carter before going on to train at the National Gallery school under O.R. Campbell and G.F.Folingsby between 1878 and 1886. Fellow students included McCubbin and Tudor St George Tucker (one of his pictures is currently hung in WAG) and Fox was awarded for his landscape painting at the Gallery’s student’s exhibition in 1884 and 1886.

Tudor St George Tucker (186201905)  was born in Middlesex, England with strong connections to  India: his grandfather Henry St George Tucker was chairman of the East India Co.   In 1881 for health reasons Tucker immigrated to Melbourne and as a struggling, independent artist he trained at the National Gallery schools under Folingsby between 1883 and 1887. Awarded for his drawings in 1884, 1886 and 1887 he joined in landscape-sketching excursions and taught drawing to support himself. Tucker was exhibiting in 1882 and 1883 at the Victorian Academy of Arts but in May 1887 left for Europe where he studied with Fox in Paris. Following his 1891 successful debut at the Salon de la Societe des Artistes Francais he returned to Melbourne in July 1892. He was both a council member and exhibitor with the Victorian Artists Society (1892-1898) and held studio shows in 1892 and 1895. Tucker also contributed to major exhibitions in Sydney as well as the Australian Exhibition in London in 1898.


Retrospectively the 1880’s were heady days for the young and impressionable artists: ‘Those were the days! Music, painting, and the stage filled up our lives’.


“In 1884, in a room over a bookseller’s shop in Bridge Road, Richmond, was born the Bohemian Sketching Club, the germ of a much larger movement and the beginning of the ‘en plein air’ school. Arthur Streeton, Frank Powne, Fergusson, Peebles, A.C.Smart, J. McDonald, Fred Williams, Ashton, Mrs Ward, Misses Farrington, Baynes, Jennings and Niven and dozens other met and displayed their months work.

About the same time Fred McCubbin, Lew Abrahams, Tom Roberts and a few kindred spirits established a Barbizon School at Box Hill, later migrating to Beaumaris.

The younger men were feeling that impulse towards colour and light in art, particularly in landscape, which was then sweeping the world.

 Streeton and Williams joined the Roberts coterie at the Heidelberg barkhut. Thus came the Australian Artists association, actually fathered by Hundman, its first secretary and his death was a great loss to Victorian art and architecture.

James T Buxon, artist’s colourman had opened his art gallery in Swanston street, where now stands the Capital Theatre. A home was found for the new body, which, though the boom was just developing its stride, was as impecunious as any artist who loves his art desires to be.

‘The academy’ on Eastern Hill was left to the amateurs and rebel members ‘came over’ including Johnnie Mathers and Percival Ball. Walter Withers managed to throw some veil of respectability over Heidelberg at Charterisville and joined in.

And chief of all was Johnnie Ford Paterson, not so much for his misty paintings, as for his rending on occasions of ‘We are na fou” generally with his brother C.S adding “The Laird O Cockpen”.

Exhibitions were held periodically, much reprimanded by the newspaper critics, though well patronized by the public and buyers’.

Out of this chaos of fun, hart times, even penury, and hard work, emerged the Australian school of light and air, headed by Arthur Streeton, though ‘Smike” was so retiring almost timid he had to be be pushed to the front.

Tom Roberts did this pushing. Roberts had the great gift of inspiring his disciple so that they surpassed their teacher, a second Lantier.

In March 1887 Streeton showed his Australian December, the first definite or perhaps indefinite impressionist painting: the name had just arrived.

Tom Humphrey, who was with Streetons old firm, Troedel and Co, followed obediently in his wake.

Rolando, Loureiro and Ugo Catani made the balance with more convential work, R.F Gow – our first good painter etcher, though Tom Roberts lectured us on the subect, and even produced a plate or two, turned out works both in oils and line, neverly properly recognized.

Aside from the work there was play – Monthly smoke nights, ‘noetes ambrosianae” were the resort of all Bohemian Melbourne. The fare – biscuits, bread, butter and cheese, and beer (Foster had just emerged from his suburban retreat at Hawthorn, and was brewing lager beer for Alf nation).

The group was soon to break up. Charlie Conder went first to Sydney, Streeton went to Balmoral.

But the light was left, and soon, even out of Charterisville, came Fox, Davies, Meldrum and Norman Lindsay.” (Source; The Australiasian, Sat.24 Oct.1931, p.4., TROVE, NLA).

Photo of artist Arthur Streeton, taken by photographer Alice Mills, wife of artist Tom Humphrey. Source: Art Gallery NSW, http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/188.1983/
Photo of artist Arthur Streeton, taken by photographer Alice Mills, wife of artist Tom Humphrey. Source: Art Gallery NSW, http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/works/188.1983/

(Sir) Arthur Ernest Streeton (1867-1943)  was born in Duneed, Victoria into a family of five siblings but was raised in Richmond after his schoolteacher father moved the family there in 1874 (three years after Humphrey’s arrival).  Though largely self-taught Streeton is considered one of the most popular painters of the Australian landscape (Galbally, A 1969). His interest in art-theory throughout his life was negligible  and it can only be supposed this author says, that he experimented himself with technique in the years before he met (Tom) Roberts (Galbally, A. p2)’.

‘Most of his early paintings were done in one session: his vision was immediate, and his method of painting directly on to canvas while at before a scene meant he rarely made preliminary studies or overpainted’ Galbally writes. Early formative influences were through a study of books, photographs and paintings available at the National Gallery or in Melbourne exhibitions and through direct contact with other artists.

Possibly Streeton met the nine-years older Humphrey through their studies at the National Gallery, where Streeton undertook night classes in the school of design between 1882 and 1887, or maybe through their  Troedel and Co employer.

Streeton was about 21 years of age when apprenticed to George Troedel and Co of Collins street east in 1886. He had left school at 13 and went to work as a junior clerk in the office of Rolfe and Co, spirit importers in Bourke street (another connection to Humphrey, whose father had set up as a spirit merchant in Abderdeen before his untimely death).

A change of employment saw Streeton move over to White’s soft-goods firm but by 1886 his skill at sketching saw him apprenticed as a lithographer to  Troedel’s who ran a printing and lithographing establishment, but how long Humphrey was working there is not yet known.

It had been a tough year for Tom Humphrey, who first buried his sister Christina who was just 35 years of age, and the soon after his mother Mary Deans. Christina Henderson Humphrey (1856-1886) was the eldest of Tom’s sisters and named for a paternal maiden aunt (who was residing with the family in Aberdeen in 1861). Maybe to the family’s regret Christina married Ernest J. Petherick ‘of Ramsden House, Clifton Hill’ (one of many, many address Ernest resided in his perpetually evolving career and across several spouses) however her loss was keenly felt by her family, and Mary Deans (formerly Humphrey, nee Leslie) followed her daughter to the grave within just a few months.

Older sister by just two years, Isabella Alexander Humphrey (1856- ) had married Robert Johnston Donaldson (1857-1920) of ‘Huntly’, Camberwell and later Box Hill, and the couple named one of their sons  Thomas Humphrey Donaldson for their artist uncle.

Tom’s brother George Humphrey (1849-1925)had settled with his wife Amelia Constance Chapman and their family of  five daughters and one son at ‘Bon Accord’ in Martin street, Gardenvale,  but little is known of brother James who is mentioned foremost in the shipping list of the Star of the India, nor of John Leslie the eldest of the Humphrey siblings.

A significant fire in December of 1886 severely damaged the top floor of Troedel’s establishment and water damage took care of the bottom floor, so for a period of time a considerable number of staff were temporarily without occupation (The Argue, 25 Nov 1886, p5.) so maybe Humphrey and Streeton seized the downtime as a painting opportunity. 

Tom Humphrey 1889 Olinda

1887 is the first year Tom Humphrey is clearly referenced as an exhibitor of artwork. “Table Talk” in its report on the ‘Winter Exhibition of the Australian Artists Association’ (Buxton’s Gallery, Swanston street) simply includes Tom Humphrey as one of number exhibitors along with McCubbin (Rocky Shore), Roberts, Mathers, Catani, J.F. Paterson, Jane Sutherland, Rev. Gow and Malcolm Campbell (Leader, 15 Oct.1887, TROVE, NLA).

Earlier in 1887 an artwork attributed to ‘J. Humphrey’ entitled Australian Heather was exhibited in the summer (second) Exhibition of the Australian Artists Association at Buxton’s Art Gallery. The only clue that it might be Tom Humphrey is the fellow exhibitors:  Tom’s future brother in law Hugh Paterson exhibited his ‘A Young Cavalier’ and John Ford Paterson his Melbourne from the Yarra. Streeton, McCubbin, Roberts and Jane Sutherland all exhibited as did W.H Withers, C. Rolando, Ugo Catani, J.C. Waite, Lourento and Herr Kanter as well as the Rev T Gow, G.P Morrison, F.F.M Williams and Malcolm Campbell. (The Argus, Sat 5 Mar.1887, p.14, TROVE, NLA).

By 1888 Humphrey, Roberts, Jane Sutherland and A Colquohon were seen to be ‘conforming’ to the style of Streeton and McCubbin (Autumn Exhibition, Victorian Society of Artists in The Australasian, 5 May 1888):

“The oil-paintings, which are nearly 100 in number, show that the general standard of merit among our Australian artists is being steadily elevated from year to year. This exhibition is strong in landscape, the work of the young men betraying the marked influence upon their style of the French school of Impressionists and involving the sacrifice of definition for breadth of effect. This is notable in the otherwise excellent pictures of Messrs McCubbin and Streeton….”

By 1889 Tom Humphrey’s work including The Way To School was pleasing enough even for the dour critique of Melbourne Punch : the grumpy writer grumbled over there not being enough catalogues at the  ‘Winter Exhibition’ of the Victorian Artists Society, held at the Grosvenor Bays of the National Gallery and a good majority of the exhibitors copped a caning:

115 paintings ‘only 27 of them watercolours’ little impressed the critic, however ‘Mr Tom Humphrey shows conscientious work in Near Olinda Creek and The Way To School, his style is distinct and studied. The Way To School is complete, from the wind-tossed bark on the foreground sapling to the girl with the Manilla bag’.

Mather’s work  he said, was ‘well represented in both oil and colour’ however Condor ‘ought to engage another snake as a model in future. This reptile looks like an eel that has been squeezed under a door after putting on a tan suit’.

Arthur Streeton was one of the few who received praise as his work was ‘understandable’: “As a rule we have been inclined to condemn the Impressionist school as laziness disguised, but Mr Arthur Streeton’s Golden Summer pleases us’

Over 25 other artists are mentioned including J. Ford Paterson, but Jane Sutherland’s work was one of the few found ‘thoughtful and pleasing’ and showing skill, and  it was Tom Roberts who copped the brunt of this particular critic’s harsh remarks. (Melbourne Punch, Thu. 9 May 1889, p.11, TROVE, NLA)

 Tom Humphrey  is ‘a clever member of a little coterie of artists who look at a landscape with other eyes than those of the poet, the naturalist and the greats of the mother country and Germany, avoiding as much as possible the delineation of positive form, and looking for their effects to splashes of colour. But in the foreground (of The Way To School) Mr. Humphrey has given us more definition than usual, and is to be thanked and congratulated accordingly’ (The Argus, 15 May 1889, TROVE, NLA).


Tom’s half-sister Lizzie Leslie Deans married Hugh Paterson this year, in an extensively attended and reported society wedding where Tom gifted his little sister a fine piano and two artworks (one of their daughters later continued the family’s art tradition as Esther Paterson Gill (1892-1971).

Tom Humphrey Exhibition 1909

By 1890 Tom was described as ‘another young Victorian artist who is pressing forward with sure progress’, from his  exhibition of two landscapes ‘characteristic of the country and marked by harmonious colour’ (Table Talk, Thu 3 Apr 1890, TROVE, NLA).

At the 1892 Victorian Artists Exhibition his Bend of the River ‘was easily ‘one of the best landscapes in the room. The foreground of long dried grass and scattered bushes is carefully studied and true in coloring. His other landscape, The Sun has Said Good-night, also possess great promise. There is a respect for nature in all of his work, which is one of the first requisites in an artist’ (The Age, Sat.28 May 1892, p.15, TROVE, NLA).  

At the 1896 Victorian Artists annual exhibition  ‘the blobesque method was ruining portraiture’, Tudor St Tucker was commended for his exhibit whilst  Tom Roberts  was unfairly considered to have ‘never done anything worse than his Bailed up’. Mathers was accused of ‘declining’ whilst  Tom Humphrey’s Early Winter was ‘so far his best work.  By discarding his somewhat misty style for a firmer method, the result was  an advantage to the spectator’ (Australasian, Sat 24 Oct 1893, TROVE, NLA).

At this time ‘the only recognition of good work was approval by ones fellow Artists’ claimed Roberts (1925) ‘ but it must have been a great joy to Humphrey when the National Gallery purchased Under a Summer Sun at an Exhibition of the Victoria Artists society, in 1896.

Another fine example of Tom’s work  is The Road Bright showing the deep blue valley and rugged mountains typical of this part of Victoria (Roberts, ibid), as well as his The Fossicker, depicting the figure of a miner in the foreground with the sunlight glinting on the cliffs in the distance, painted during a visit to a mining camp at Mansfield.

Tom’s health was ‘clouded by ill-health Roberts explained,  the chief factor in preventing him holding a ‘one man show’ (Ibid).

Untitled photo of photographer Alice Mills, who married artist Tom Humphrey. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Not_titled_(Self-Portrait_of_Alice_Mills).jpg
Untitled photo of photographer Alice Mills, who married artist Tom Humphrey. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Not_titled_(Self-Portrait_of_Alice_Mills).jpg

However after his marriage in 1899 to Ballarat born photographer Alice Mills, 1870-1929 (cousin of my great.grandmother Hannah Williams nee Brayshaw)  the two worked as a couple in the photography business whilst Tom continued his painting, and he did have a ‘one-man show’, at least in 1913 at his studio in Centreway, Collins street.

Tom Humphrey ‘occupied a high place in photography and art in Melbourne and was an artist of wide repute and a master photographer, as well as a founding member of the original Victorian Artists Society, and a council member of the latter when reconstructed’, according to his later obituary.

In the late 1890’s Tom ‘managed the firm who later become Johnstone, O’Shannessy and Falk, before setting up T. Humphrey and Co’,  after the sale of which Alice continued as a photographer on her own right and in her own name (The Australiasian, Sat 30 Sep.1922, TROVE, NLA).

Marriage of Tom Humphrey and Alice Mills

Alice however was always an institution in her own right: she had trained at Emily O’Shaughnessy’s photographic studio in Melbourne, and afterwards at Henry Johnstone’s. ‘Alice was a top ranking commercial photographer, she was frequently published in magazines and produced hundreds of portraits of young World War I soldiers.’  Alice was strategic: already an influential professional photographer after seven years study  she flourished in 1900, and worked actively up until her death in 1929. She established her name among the top photographers in Melbourne, her work was published in magazines and she exhibited her own works (in 1906 her colored photos  went up against  Walter Wither’s exhibition). Alice was adaptable,  changing with  national environments, like taking on portraits of army officers heading to the first World War front, and offering night sittings for portraiture. The cream of the social crop were photographed by Alice, who was also clever in networking and charming local newspaper who commonly reported on her work. Her studios included Centreway (Collins Street) and  Broothorn.

Humphrey Family on Holidays

Alice and Tom Humphrey’s daughter, Mary ‘Molly’ Journeaux Humphrey carried on the surn ame of Alice’s grandfather (my g.g.grandfather) James Journeaux , a bookbinder in county Cork but of Huguenot descent.


Lizzie's sister Margaret Mills was photographed by her artist daughter Alice Mills Humphreys to portray 'Winter' in an display of her work at the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in Melbourne,1907. The original photo was donated to the National Art Gallery of Australia by Margaret's granddaughter Dr Mary True. picture source: NGA 2015, http://cs.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=87940
Margaret Mills nee Journeaux. Photographed by her artist daughter Alice Mills Humphreys to portray ‘Winter’ in an display of Alice’s work at the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work in Melbourne,1907. Original photo was donated to the National Art Gallery of Australia by Margaret’s granddaughter Dr Mary True. picture source: NGA 2015, http://cs.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=87940

A photograph of Alice Mills’ mother is hung in the National Gallery, though the figure therein is incorrectly named “Mrs Journeaux”. Alice’ mother was born Margaret Journeaux  but was married to her great love Andrew Davidson Mills, and always used the surname Mills.

Alice’s mother was one of seven sisters Journeaux, born in Cork to their bookbinder father and their very roman catholic mother.  Margaret migrated to Melbourne in 1857 followed by younger sister Ellen (1859) and next in line Hannah (arrived 1860). Two other sisters migrated to New Zealand in the 1870’s and two remained in Ireland following the death of Alice’s grandmother in Cork – Mrs Mary Ann Journeaux nee O’Connor.

The Journeaux clan grew up around the arts hub in Cork, one of the sister’s marrying a framer, ticket-writer, bookseller Charles Jones of 31 Academy Street Cork. And there is strong evidence their mother’s family were the O’Connors of the Cork press in the 1800 era.

Alice’s mother unusually, (and at the time illegally) gave her occupation as ‘bookbinder’ on her 1857 shipping record when she travelled to Australia, where she first settled at Geelong and married fellow bookbinder A. D .Mills, before the couple moved to Ballarat where their children were all born, and  finally retiring to Armadale after the early death of her husband.

I often wonder if Alice was influenced to take photography after visiting New Zealand when about 9 years of age, and again at 11 to visit her aunt Lizzie Bushby, keeper of the family’s photo album.

After  Tom Humphrey’s death at his Grandview-grove residence in Armadale (Victoria) in September 1922 his death passed largely unnoticed, and by 1925 and following the death of his brother George, Alice Mills (Humphrey) began donating some of Tom’s artworks to Victorian galleries in memory of her late husband.‘Elltham’ was donated to the Castlemaine Art Gallery (though sold by them in 1999. Lot 195, Sotheby’s).

On The Road to Bright was donated to the Ballarat Art Gallery (Alice Mills’ home town) and is currently exhibited there in the Crouch gallery.

Art auction records online document some 29 of Humphrey’s works that have passed through auction houses including ElthamMan With a Swag 1896 (sold in 2005)  and Seascape at Dusk: there are six unnamed landscapes as well as  Moonlight Landscape, Plenty Ranges, Distant Hills, Stormy Seas, Swaggie in a Landscape, Coastal Mists, Last Light, Black Beach, Yarra River View, Coastal Lanscape, Mornington, View from Mt Macedon and Storm Approaching.

However in 1909 alone, Humphrey exhibited 29 canvases at his Exhibition including Between The Showers, Evening from the Deck of the Ozone, The Setting Sun, Eucalypti, When the Sun is Low, White Horse Road, Hampton Seashore, Break and Turmoil, Night Closing on a Sullen Reef and Sandringham.

Its unknown yet how many work Humphrey works were created and what still exists.

Tom Humphrey longed for an uninterrupted conversation with nature, which his death cut short (Roberts, 1925). Its exciting to see Warrnambool along with Ballarat are keen to keep the Humphrey conversation current.

The Way to School (originally Springtime) a work by artist Tom Humphrey now at the Warrnambool Art Gallery. Source: http://www.cv.vic.gov.au/stories/creative-life/warrnambool-art-gallery/the-way-to-school-formerly-known-as-springtime/


Tom Roberts (1856-1931), p.229 in ‘Australian Painters’,  James Gleeson 1976, Landsdowne Press, RPLA Pty, Ltd, Dee Why West, N.S.W.

The Australasian (Melb, Vic),  30 Sep.1922., in TROVE, National Library of Australia (NLA). http://trove.nla.gov.au/

‘Story of Australian Painting’, pp.85-98, Mary Eagle and John Jones, 1994, Pan Macmillan Publishers, Sydney, N.S.W.

‘The Buonarotti Club:Bohemians of the Eighties. Memories of Noted Artists by L.T.Luxton