Family art heirloom sees auction light

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 22nd June, 2015

Leonard Joel’s Fine Art auction from 6.30pm Tuesday June 23 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra features Walter Withers The Trysting Place c1891 – part of the one family collection since its 19th century acquisition by Herald chairman of the time, the late Theodore Fink (1855-1942).

Born in the Channel Islands and migrating with his family in April 1861 to Geelong, Fink was a solicitor, politician, newspaper proprietor and educationist.

In 1871, the Fink family moved to Melbourne and Theodore attended the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, where he was a classmate and friend of Alfred Deakin – later to become Australia’s second Prime Minister.

The following year, he joined the reputable law firm of Henry J. Farmer as an articled clerk while he completed his law degree at the University of Melbourne.

In the ensuing years, Fink became a well-known writer and public speaker and a regular contributor to Melbourne Punch and other papers.

In 1879, he became the youngest member of the Yorick Club and closely associated with writers, journalists and artists such as Marcus Clarke, Jules Francoise Archibald, Charles Condor, William Longstaff, Sir Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Edgar MacKennal, Tom Roberts and Phil May.

Marrying Kate Isaacs shortly after, the collapse of the land boom in the early 1890s shattered his secure life when rapidly falling property values made nonsense of his assets.

Narrowly avoiding the scandal of public bankruptcy for himself and many other prominent land speculators via a procedure of composition of debt through his restructured firm Fink, Best & Hall, Fink turned his attention to journalism and public affairs after he purchased shares in the newly formed Herald and Sportsman Newspapers Co. Ltd following the death of Herald joint owner John Halfey.

A Victorian parliamentary career began in 1894 with his election to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Jolimont and West Richmond, a seat he held until when 1904 when he withdrew from State politics.

During World War 1, Fink devoted his time to the Herald, of which by then he was chairman of directors, and the war effort.

The Withers painting has a catalogue estimate of  $120,000-$180,000 and is the highest priced of all the paintings on offer at the auction.

Many of the other works are by famous Australian painters of various periods including Donald Friend, Pro Hart, James Gleeson, Mirka Mora, Roland Wakelin, Robert Dickerson, David Boyd, John Perceval, Kenneth Jack and Charles Blackman.

Another auction feature are three miniatures and three watercolours that tell the story of William Cox (1764-1837) and his descendants.

Cox arrived in 1800 in the New South Wales colony and was appointed Magistrate of Hawkesbury in 1810, where he oversaw and spearheaded the construction of bridges and the creation of frontier roads in the Blue Mountains area. 

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