By Terry Ingram, on 20-May-2016

Like the opossum in Heaviside Clark's book Field Sports of the Native Inhabitants of NSW of 1813, the last of the major old style Australian antiquarian collections of the 1980s has been finally smoked out. The auction of the collection of Denis Joachim, which includes what may well be the original watercolours for the book, has been bagged by Mossgreen Auctions in conjunction with Australian Book Auctions and will be held over three days in June in its Melbourne premises, and viewed at the Anne Schofield building in Queen Street, Sydney.

Like the opossum in Heaviside Clark's book 'Field Sports of the Native Inhabitants of NSW' of 1813, the last of the major old style Australian antiquarian collections of the 1980s has been finally smoked out. The auction of the collection of Denis Joachim, which includes what may well be the original watercolours for the book, has been bagged by Mossgreen Auctions in conjunction with Australian Book Auctions and will be held over three days in June in its Melbourne premises.

The auction is being described by Mossgreen's MD Paul Sumner as bigger than the Peter Elliott (art) sale and therefore “a multi-multi million dollar” affair, especially if the book sale is combined with the art section and a subsidiary section devoted to decorative arts.

The 1050 lot Elliott sale made $7 million. The coming sales will, however, be without the collection's star art lot because that was sold by Sotheby's Australia in August 2013 for $219,600. That was Aborigines of Van Diemen's Land, a small oil on panel by the little known Robert Neill (1801-52), which was claimed to be the very earliest oil of the Indigenous Tasmanians, the Palawa.

That find must have covered a lot of expenses. Much cataloguing was done by book dealer Peter Arnold and other preparatory work done after the former owner of Sotheby's Australia, Mr Tim Goodman referred the collection to the company. Mr Joachim, an old friend of Mr Goodman's evidently was not as close to the new management. Being engrossed in the collection for many years (collecting for 55 of them) Mr Joachim withdrew it because he felt he could also not let it go anyway.

Not a young man any more like most of us of the males on this scene of that era, Mr Joachim paid Sotheby's a penalty for the withdrawal, which is believed to have been consigning the Neill to a Sotheby's sale. Possibly other costs were involved. No one is commenting. He now realises the parting has to be.

Despite the loss of the Neill, Mr Joachim should not be disappointed by the turn-out and support for a lifetime's devotion - given recent market trends in colonial Australiana.

The lead item, of course, the 10 watercolours of Heaviside Clark is also Aboriginalia which paradoxically has continued to thrive after the 1988 Biennale of Settlement by Europeans it was supposed to celebrate.

The watercolours, which are very close to the coloured engravings of the book, have a very interesting recent provenance but no early provenance, in keeping with the mystery surrounding the publisher Heaviside Clark himself.

Mossgreen's specialist and cataloguer Petrit Abazi concedes that the relationship of the watercolours with the book remains unclear. Whether they were copied, interpreted or simply appropriated by Clark we do not know. But he appears confident about their date from a watermark in the paper. He says their early date and seminal role in the documentary records of early indigenous cultures make them very special.

The estimate on the watercolours is a very sensitively available EOR which is 'Estimate on request'. The watercolours have been sold twice before, by Sotheby's individually in London in July 1988 and in Sydney in April 1993.

Their early survival after 200 years was no thanks to Sotheby's which first introduced offered the watercolours without provenance to the market in 1987, selling them individually. Their combined survival was thanks to London dealer Angela Nevill who purchased all 10 lots one by one as they were knocked down at an auction of topographical paintings, watercolours and drawings in Bond Street,

Sotheby's Australia, of course is no stranger to the break up procedure as it famously came to attention for separating items in the Strathallan chest, (commonly known as Governor Macquarie's ) in 1989 taking out the American Indian lots.

The Australian Financial Review's saleroom column reported at the time that a London dealer bought the watercolours, ostensibly the original watercolours from which the engravings for the book Field Sports of the Native Inhabitants of NSW (published in 1813) were taken, when the watercolours first appeared on the market in 1987.

“The most popular sport with the day's buyers appears to have been Climbing Trees, which made £18,700, and Hunting the Kangaroo, which made the same. Runners up were The Dance, which went for £16,500, and Warriors, which made £16,500 each. Fishing Number 1 and Fishing Number 2 each went for £11,000. Prices tended to just top the top estimates” it was reported

“The prices were paid despite the fact that the artist, John Heaviside "Waterloo" Clark, never, on all available evidence, visited Australia. It has been suggested that his drawings may have been taken from sketches by John William Lewin.”

Sotheby's gave no provenance and there is always the problem, in such situations, of establishing the priority - or posterity - of the watercolours to the prints.

In April 1993 as part of the Dallhold (Alan Bond) sale the watercolours were disposed of by Sotheby's again. In a sale in Sydney at which a John Lewin painting of a gecko sold for $28,600 and the Watling Banksian Cockatoo for $96,800, (to John Buttsworth) a buyer was found for the watercolours very much on the low side (Mr Joachim) at $38,500. The estimate was $100,000-150,000. This must have been the very bottom of the colonial market. Asked about the paper Mr Joachim said he had never taken the watercolours out of their frames.

“These works relate, no-one seems to know exactly how, to the coloured plates published in 1813” I once again reported.

As reported in the Australian Art Sales Digest in 2013 Mr Joachim - unnamed in the catalogue - consigned one of the what now appears to be one of his greatest finds and sleepers to an Important Australian Art sale held in Sydney on August 27. Estimated to make to make between $180,000 and $250,000 the Niell made $219,600.

Mr Joachim is known to have been such a committed collector that he has been utterly loath to part with it. The library, which includes ephemera and photographic material and has accordingly been hanging around Sotheby's now for nearly three years with other auction houses also sounded out. However, he is believed to want his collection to enjoy the razzle-dazzle to which it is almost certainly due.

The books had been fully catalogued by Melbourne rare book seller Mr Peter Arnold who is understood to have been fully reimbursed for his work.

A fourth generation Australian, property developer and former rag trader, Mr Joachim has seldom missed a big book sale, buying at the Rodney Davidson auctions over the past decade and at Sotheby's sale of the Longueville Collection in 1993.

Early photography is also covered extensively by the Joachim collection in Part Two of the sale. Mossgreen is conducting the sale in conjunction with Australian Book Auctions, just across the road from Mossgreen's headquarters in High Street Armadale.

 

About The Author

Terry Ingram inaugurated the weekly Saleroom column for the Australian Financial Review in 1969 and continued writing it for nearly 40 years. His scoops include the Whitlam Government's purchase of Blue Poles in 1973 and repeated fake scandals (from contemporary art to antique silver) and auction finds. He has closely followed the international art, collectors and antique markets to this days. Terry has also written two books on the subjects

.