Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drive By Houses - Sarathon and Joseph Brown

The 1881 Italianate home of the late Dr Joseph Brown, AO, OBE, is for sale.  I have previously written of my love for Italianate tower houses, and Melbourne has a preponderance, including this one, known as Sarathon.

Located at Grandview Grove, Prahran, it has a completely untouched back area which is very unusual and many intact features.   Here is one of the rooms.  

Guess what kind of person resided here? 

It's not hard to guess - someone who lived and loved art.  As beautiful as this house is, perhaps it is most interesting for its owner, Joseph Brown, who died last year

This portrait of Joseph Brown was painted by Sir William Dargie in 1975.  Doesn't he look like a wonderful person?  I imagine him as slightly gruff but charming, and fascinated by all around him.   (Apologies for tiny size of image).

Here are some hight points of his incredible life.  

Josef Breun arrived as a Polish emigre with his father and siblings in 1932, aged 14. He left school at 16 and found a job working in a fashion house.  This was also the age at which he purchased his first artwork (with his first wage).  He established a fashion business making wedding and evening gowns but still loved to paint and scupt.

He served in World War II for his adopted country, and joined the 13th Light Horse Regiment.

He gave away fashion eventually and opened an art gallery in 1967.  He rediscovered forgotten artists (such as John Glover, whose colonial works fell out of fashion in the 1950s) and mentored young artists (such as Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Rick Amor). 

He realised early on he could not afford European art and instead over decades amassed an incredible collection of Australian art, spanning centuries.

In May 2004 Brown donated most of his collection of art to the National Gallery of Victoria.  This collection of 150 works ranged from Aboriginal to Heidelberg school works worth $30 million was the most generous single gift ever made to an Australian gallery.  Included are these works:

(Phillipine Girls by Ian Fairweather, 1935)

(Yall-y-Poora Homestead by Eugene Von Guerard, 1864)

Dr Brown kept 300 paintings from his collection.  You can see some of them on the walls of Sarathon.   He repeatedly said he was not a rich man, and emphasised the friendships he had forged with so many outstanding artists. He said in 2004 that he would keep painting himself as long as he could hold a paintbrush. 

((1)-(3) Marshall White (5) and (6) NGV, other sources The Age and Wikepedia).

And thank you all for those who left such nice comments about my friend and her tragedy.  She is doing okay, and you are all very kind to be thinking of her. xoxo


Unknown said...

i will be placing my deposit on the house shortly... ;-)
how beautiful, and what a lovely history.
xoxo alison

Karena said...

Thank you to all of the art collectors, mentors, sponsors of the world's creative one's. Wonderful story & property Jane!

Art by Karena

brismod said...

Be still my heart. Wonderful art works - I found this so interesting.

Millie said...

Karena's observations are spot on. The world needs more Joseph's desperately, he was one of a kind. Please let us know what happens to the property.
Millie ^_^

pve design said...

What an inspiration. I love knowing that we are all leaving some sort of trail of goodness. Wonderful work.

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

What a fabulous story Jane. The world definitely needs more Dr Browns. And what a great looking house - if slightly spooky looking from outside. Looks like something from a movie set - until you see that amazing art on the walls inside. xx

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

funny how a house will just speak to you- I am still hearing voices. This one is a keeper for someone. pgt

Mise said...

What a beautiful house, and how appropriate that it was owned by someone with aspiration and conviction and enthusiasm. He looks the perfect drawing-room gent, bless him.

JMW said...

What a beautiful and house and such history!

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

What a wonderful house, Jane. Just my cup of tea. A bit gothic and quirky, with that wonderful Australian influence.
Josef Brown looked like a great man and, a little eccentric, I think. I love people like him.... we have over our fair share in the U.K.!!!!
... and what a wonderful collection of art that he had. He obviously bought wisely. Even though he couldn't afford European art, he bought some wonderful Australian pieces.
Let us know the outcome of Sarathon. I hope that it goes to someone who will look after it and love it. XXXX

Kristine said...

I'm not happy with this man, if he's the one responsible for carving off lovely chunks of land around this beautiful house and selling them for subdivision. It has left this beautiful example of Victorian architecture squashed in on a miserable piece of land with less than attractive neighbours leering over it. Such a sad shame. It's a marvellous house. The auction will be interesting and I hope the buyer makes much of it. The tower would make a lovely sunny spot to sit and read a good book on a winter's day.

Jane said...

hi Kris

Yes it is bizarre what has happened to the front of the block and I assume the owners of Sarathon were responsible in the sense that they subdivided it and sold it off.

Maybe it is a better use of inner city land? And I personally like the modern monstrosity at the front but it is very close in....xoxo

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