We really enjoy dealing in decorative paintings, and I have a particular love of portraits. I prefer dealing in period, decorative paintings rather than name paintings, but periodically, we have a famous painter in stock.
The most expensive and memorable, but not my favourite, portrait that we have ever sold is the portrait of Mrs Scharf, by Frederick McCubbin. This oil on canvas by one of Australia’s greatest painters is large: 152.5 cm by 77 cm. It was painted in 1900. The sitter is Mrs Olive Alice May Scharf (nee Huggard) who was born in Bendigo in 1875. Moving to Melbourne to study piano at the Albert Street Conservatorium had romantic results, as she married her teacher, Karl Theodor Edward Scharf in September of 1898. A year later, their son, Theodore was born, at a time when Olive was experiencing respectable success as a concert pianist. Young Theodor is immortalised in a portrait of him in 1911, painted by Violet Teague, which now hangs in the national Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Mrs Scharf took her son to Europe in 1914 to study art, but with the advent of war, they were stranded, and lived till 1950 in Munich. During the war, Mr Scharf was held as a prisoner of war in Australia. While Mrs Scharf was hanging at Roy’s Antiques descendants of Frederick McCubbin who were already regular callers, come frequently to enjoy her, before she passed into a private collection and became , once more, unavailable for public enjoyment.
I will take this opportunity to give praise where it is due. I owe an immeasurable debt to Betty Churcher, under whom I studied for a couple of wonderful years. She taught me to really see. It was she, more than anybody else, that taught me to really look at an object, which is the basis for antiques dealing and appreciation. In one of Geoffrey Godden’s books on porcelain, he shows illustrations of four very similar teapots, and basically declares that if all the teapots look the same to you, you might as well give up now as you have absolutely no aptitude for antiques. An eye for detail and subtle differences is essential, but can be learned. Betty Churcher would have completely understood Godden’s point, but would have been enthusiastic about rectifying this obtuseness of visual apprehension in the most enjoyable possible way.