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image icon Photograph frame and photograph of the artist and his wife on the occasion of their Golden Wedding day, c1910 and c1940

Photograph frame and photograph of the artist and his wife on the occasion of their Golden Wedding day, c1910 and c1940
Art Gallery of South Australia

Description

This is a black-and-white framed photograph taken in 1940 by Robert Prenzel (1866-1941). It shows the photographer and his wife, Wilhelmina, dressed formally and posed in a garden setting. Robert Prenzel is smiling down at the dog he holds in his arms while his wife looks on. The photograph is set in an oval mount. The largely rectangular frame, hand-carved by Prenzel in about 1910 from a single piece of Queensland maple, is edged with curved and angled leaf forms and features a tulip-shaped flower at the top left corner, all carved in high relief. Chisel cuts and gouge patterns can be seen in the more open areas of the frame's design. The frame measures 39.0 cm (height) x 28.0 cm (width) x 3.7 cm (depth).

Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • is a hand-carved frame made by Robert Prenzel - Prenzel was the most talented of the woodcarvers working in Australia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; he was born in Germany where he trained as an apprentice and journeyman carver; he immigrated to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in 1888 where he undertook many carving commissions for churches and produced numerous shields for associations and sporting clubs; in the years following Australia's federation (1901), Prenzel's innovative use of Australian floral and fauna motifs in furniture pieces and his clever, harmonious blending of native flora and the art nouveau style brought him many commissions, particularly from wealthy families in Melbourne and Victoria's Western District
  • shows the influence of Art Nouveau on Prenzel's style of carving - Art Nouveau ('new art') was an art, architecture and design style that reached a peak of popularity in Europe in the 1890s; it was distinguished by sinuous, flowing and curved forms; the tulip that appears on the Prenzel frame incorporates some of the art nouveau trademark 'whiplash' lines (flowing curvature intensified by a dramatic swerve in direction), visible in the curving and entwining stems and leaves
  • employs the principle of organic design fundamental to Art Nouveau - art nouveau artists and designers usually drew their inspiration from nature and the fact that natural forms, particularly plants, are often asymmetrical in design; this is seen here in the irregular, curving profile of the frame's outer edge and the concentration of ornamentation on one side of the frame
  • demonstrates a high level of woodcarving skill - Prenzel's design is carved in high relief, which would have involved him sketching in the main lines to indicate the flower and leaves, cutting out the spaces between the lines with a gouge to a more or less uniform depth, modelling, shaping and chiselling the details of the design while carefully balancing the lights and shadows, and cleaning up all of the cuts once satisfied with the overall design
  • commemorates a significant family event - the photograph was taken on the occasion of the golden wedding (50th) anniversary of Robert Prenzel and his wife, Wilhelmina.