Keast Burke
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Charles Bayliss

Gold And Silver (Australasian Photo-Review #7 1953)

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A documentary picture of considerable value from the aspect of railway development is one taken at the site of the original Hawkesbury River Bridge. This photograph, made about the middle of 1887, shows some of the piles in position and in the centre foreground the paddlesteamer which was used to convey passengers across this unfinished link in the railway system northwards.

The eighties were almost certainly a busy period for Bayliss, though the details lack full confirmation. There is the suggestion that he visited Tasmania and New Zealand, there photographing the famous pink and white terraces. If the N.Z. trip is confirmed it must have occurred prior to that tragic day of June 10th, 1886, when this glorious natural beauty was engulfed in thirty feet of volcanic mud.

Road-making operations on the Donkin property at Lake Cowal (N.S.W.). This photograph is reproduced by way of representation for the photographer's many up-country assignments.

His most important assignment of this period was to accompany, as official photographer, the Royal Commission on Water Conservation, instituted in 1886 by the N.S.W. Government to travel the Darling from Bourke to Wentworth. One Commissioner was J. B. Donkin, a man of great enterprise and initiative, who not only secured the services of Bayliss as photographer but as well invited Gilbert Parker, (later Sir Gilbert Parker, the distinguished Canadian man of letters, then on the literary staff of The Sydng Morning Herald) to accompany the party as historian(13).

The Bayliss photography on this occasion, as ever, was first rate and three fine examples have been selected for reproduction.

Group photograph taken in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, at the conclusion of the Royal Commission on Water Conservation trip. Gilbert Parker is seen seated (on left), Charles Bayliss (right), and J. B. Donkin standing (third from left).

In 1883 he married Christiana Salier. There were tobe seven children of the marriage, five sons and two daughters.

Charles Bayliss and his family, photographed about the middle of 1895. The children, from left to right, with years of birth; -back row: Raymond Charles (1884), Alfred John (1886); front row: Bessie Salier (1888), Walter Norman (1893), and Emily Annie (1891). Alfred and Walter lost their lives in World War One. Eric Edward Bayliss was born subsequent to the photograph (1896), while Charles (1887) died in infancy.

The early nineties are marked by some good family pictures accurately dated to Feb. 22nd, 1891. They show some of the children at play, on a sturdy seesaw and on a dummy coach-these constructed as gifts no doubt for the previous Christmas. All accounts refer to his great love and affection for his young family. For them there could be no worse punishment than a severe look from their father. Apart from that occasional "severe look", all recollections are of a happy father, and of one who was forever adding to that happiness touches of whimsy(14) that could not but charm his wife and his young sons and daughters.

Another important project of the nineties(15) was his photography of almost every important oil painting in the National Art Gallery of Victoria - a large volume of prints contains scores of these copies. These are all so perfectly rendered as to make us wonder whether or not Bayliss had some private means of improving the sensitivity of his colourblind plates, for orthochromatism, is not quite the novelty we have always been led to believe(16).

As an example of this National Gallery work, we have selected Louis Buvelot's picture Waterpool at Coleraine, this partly for the reason that it appears to be the best Australian painting, and partly because Buvelot was "the first artist of note to set down in terms of paint the atmosphere of the Australian bush"(17).

Waterpoo at Coleraine, from the painting by Buvelot, as copied by Charles Baylis. This was one of a large number photographed in the early nineties from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria.

From family tradition we learn that Charles Bayliss was one of the earliest process-engravers in Sydney and that he made the illustrative plates for the Sydney Mail of that period. Of this there is no proof beyond. the circumstantial evidence that certain issues (June 22nd, 1895 and September 5th, 1896) refer respectively to "illustrations produced by various new processes" and "great advances [which] have immensely popularised certain forms of pictorial art". This evidence is supplemented by the tradition that "he had men continuously engaged on making blueprints and on other work for architects and engineers" and by the, fact that his eldest son adopted process-engraving as his trade.

On one early winter's day in 1897 Charles Bayliss arose early, as was his custom, to feed and harness the pony which he drove each day from his home in Marrickville ("Hadleigh" in Wemyss Street) to his place of business. His powers of resistance must have been low for he caught a chill which swiftly turned to a "galloping pneumonia", in those days, the equivalent of a sentence of death.

On June 4th, at the untimely age of forty-seven, he passed from the ken of his family and of a very wide circle of friends. "As a man he was ever genial and kindly; as a landscape photographer he had few equals and no superiors. His memory is forever honoured in the hearts of all who knew him."(18)

Today Australia must honour the memory of Charles Bayliss for a major contribution to photographic Australiana; without his encouragement, infectious enthusiasm and practical photographic ability, Holtermann might very well have come to lose interest in those very involved photographic plans of his.


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photographs copied from Gold And Silver (Australasian Photo-Review #7 1953)