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 A Chronology up to 1980


Born 29 December 1864, Truro, South Australia. Son of a merchant, Alexander Kauffmann, a German-born Jew, and his wife Therese, nee Victorsen, born Clare, South Australia.

Four siblings: Louis, Caroline, Julia, Emma. The Kauffmanns moved to Adelaide in 1868, where the family operated a general importing business and had mining and other business interests.


Joined architectural firm of John Harry Grainger (father of composer, Percy Grainger) as an articled clerk.


Attended autumn and winter sessions of evening art classes conducted by H.P. Gill, director of the School of Design, Painting and Technical Art, Adelaide.


Travelled to London and worked in the office of Mackmurdo and Home, architects.

A.H. Mackmurdo was an influential architect and interior designer, art publisher and editor of the Hobby Horse arts journal.


Studied photochemistry with an unnamed analytical chemist in England.

In his free time, sketched and photographed rural England.


Came in contact with the new art photography movement through exhibitions at the Photographic Society (renamed the Royal Photographic Society in 1894) in London.

In particular, Kauffmann was impressed by the work of the pioneer Pictorialists, H.P. Robinson and Alfred Horsley-Hinton.


Moved to Europe to study new photomechanical reproduction processes in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. To gain practical experience he worked for six months in portrait photographer's studio in Vienna, and pursued further studies in photochemistry at the University of Zurich.

Attended exhibitions of the Vienna Camera Club — a leading body for the new art photography.

Studied under Professor Eder at the Imperial and Royal Institute for Teaching and Experimentation in Photography and Reproduction Processes in Vienna.


Sketched and photographed the Lake Lugarno area; learnt zinc etching and collotype at a school of photographic reproduction, Groenbach, Bavaria.


Visited Munich, Italy and Paris before departure for Adelaide, probably in early 1897.


By July, had returned to Adelaide. Joined the South Australian Photographic Society.

Made an unsuccessful approach to the Society of Artists in Sydney to have his photographs included in their annual salon. Photographs had not been classed as eligible art works.

Baker and Rouse Pty Ltd, photographic suppliers, made enlargements of Kauffmanns works on their new matte Pearl bromide papers, and exhibited them in the firm's Sydney and Adelaide showrooms.

Kauffmann's actions reported in the newspapers and photographic journals, with positive commentary on the quality of his work.


Exhibited at the New South Wales Photographic Society Annual Exhibition in Sydney. His works praised and awarded medals at the Fifth Annual Conversazione and Salon of the South Australian Photographic Society in October, 1899, and at the New South Wales Photographic Society's Intercolonial Exhibition in the same month, where his works attracted particular attention.


Works illustrated in the British Photograms of the Year annual.


Kauffmann's father, Alexander, died. The family business, Alexander Kauffmann & Son, closed.


Invited to be a judge and a guest exhibitor at the South Australian Photographic Society annual exhibition.


Won medals from the New South Wales Photographic Society.


Won medals from the Victorian Amateur Photographic Association.


Kauffmann's mother, with whom he resided, died in Adelaide. Kauffmann visited Melbourne.


Moved to Melbourne.


1910 In November, Kauffmann's one-person show of seventy-four works mounted by the Victorian Photographic Association. The exhibition was well-reported and praised in the newspapers and photographic journals.


1912 First private listing in telephone directory— at 163 Collins Street, Melbourne.


Second one-person show of eighty prints, mostly bromides, mounted by the Victorian Photographic Association. The show was also displayed in Sydney at the rooms of the New South Wales Photographic Society. Exhibition well-received but also criticised for 'sombreness'.

Kauffmann's brother, Louis, died in Melbourne.


Listed studio at 163 Collins Street.


Works featured in special publication, Domestic Architecture in Australia — A special number of Art in Australia.

Moved studio to 243 Collins Street.

Monograph, The Art of John Kauffmann, with an introduction and picture commentaries by Leslie H. Beer, published by Alexander McCubbin, Melbourne, in a limited edition of 500 copies.

Commissioned to provide illustrations for a book on the Sunraysia district agricultural settlement.

Took on more commercial assignments, including fashion illustrations in The Home and Table Talk magazines.


Resided at 38 Darling Street, South Yarra, Melbourne. Works included in various annuals of The Home.


Twenty architectural studies included in the publication Melbourne — A special number of Art in Australia.


Began extensive series of floral studies, photographing in the Treasury Gardens and other localities.


Listed as main photographer for Sydney Ure Smith's booklet, Melbourne.

Moved his studio to 'The Age' Chambers, 239 Collins Street, where he worked until his death in 1942. Resided at 74 Park Street with his sister, Mrs Julie Benda.

Manuscripts, a Victorian literary and arts journal, published an enthusiastic article by Ambrose Pratt on Kauffmann's floral studies.


Works rejected by the Victorian Salon. On the occasion of the special Centenary Salon, Kauffmann met Harold Cazneaux, one of the judges, and expressed his anger at the lack of recognition of his work, maintaining that his status should preclude him having to submit work for judging.

Made a will, listing himself as an artist of 239 Collins Street.


Edward Cranstone, a young photographer, worked in Kauffmann's studio for a year, learning Pictorial techniques free of charge. Kauffmann began suffering from ill health.

In March, a third one-person show held at the Newman Galleries, 289 Collins Street.

Won medals at the Australian Commemorative Salon in Sydney.

Exhibited at the Victorian Salon.


A selection of old and new works included in the Invitation Section of the New South Wales Photographic Society exhibition.


Began to suffer serious ill health in May. John Kauffmann died in November. In contradiction to Jewish practice, he requested in his will that he should be cremated, but according to Jewish custom was buried in Fawkner Cemetery.


Harold Cazneaux provided a testament to Kauffmann's role as a photographer in the book Australian Photography 1947.


In his history of Australian photography, The Story of the Camera in Australia, Jack Cato included a biographical profile and acknowledgment of Kauffmann's pioneer role in photography.


First works by John Kauffmann acquired by an art museum (National Gallery of Victoria).


Works acquired by the Art Gallery of New South Wales
and included in the travelling exhibition, Australian Pictorial Photography 1898-1930.


Biography of Kauffmann and works illustrated in Gael Newton, Silver and Grey: Fifty years of Australian photography, Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1980.

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