Australia: Painted by Percy F.S. Spence, described by Frank Fox. Frank Fox.
Australia: Painted by Percy F.S. Spence, described by Frank Fox.

Australia: Painted by Percy F.S. Spence, described by Frank Fox.

London: Adam and Charles Black, 1910. First Edition. Printed in Edinburgh, first edition, octavo 22.5 x 17 cm, hard cover, 220 pages, plus 75 full-colour plates facing text pages (total 295 pages, plus four pagers of book advertisements at rear). Contents, List of Illustrations, 15 Chapters, folding map before Index. Fixed tissue guards between 75 full colour plates and text pages. Top edge gilt, spine and front cover elaborately decorated in colour and gold, with the elaborately designed insignia of Newington College Sydney prominent in gold on the lower front board. Weight: 1.25 kg.

Condition: Overall good to very good. Front cover beginning to part but holding. Short tear at inner top of page 5; colour plate (“A Harbour Picnic”) after p. 20 and “Young Australia” after p. 22 detached, but undamaged; tissue guard facing p. 88 detached & a little creased. Endpapers browned. Good. Item #546

The fame of the author of Australia, Frank Fox, and Percy Spence, who painted its 75 watercolour Plates, amply ensured its success on publication in 1910. Both men had distinguished careers in their respective fields, and both have substantial entries in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Together, they produced in Australia a distinctive Edwardian-era history of the antipodean nation, described in Fox’s words as “the one great Continent of the British race”. What stands out to today’s reader is the interpretation of Australia’s history and national character as it was seen here and in Britain before World War I. We readily see how much our views differ from that era. There is much that is familiar, much that is contentious, much than evokes feelings of nostalgia and much that gives us pause in considering how Australia is, or might be, thought of in the early 21st century.

Frank Ignatius Fox (1874-1960), journalist, Imperialist and author, spent his childhood in Adelaide and Hobart before moving to Sydney, and then Bathurst where he was Editor of the National Advocate. He returned to Sydney where he worked on newspapers and joined The Bulletin in 1901 and published a memoir of ‘Breaker’ Morant. Fox, a fierce supporter of an Australian navy and citizen army, was commissioned in 1905 in the Australian Field Artillery. In 1907 Fox was appointed first Editor and Manager of The Lone Hand and published a volume of political essays. In London from 1909, Fox wrote for the Morning Post (News Editor from 1910), The Times, the Daily Mail and a “swarm of other papers”. Regarded in London as a strikingly handsome man and a wild young Australian, Fox warned of the menace of war and continued to publish many books from 1910 to 1914. He was sent by the Morning Post in 1912 to the Balkans, where he accompanied the Bulgarian Army through Turkey and covered the Balkan peace conference. He was with the Belgian Army early in the War and in 1914 was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery, serving in France where he was twice wounded in the battle of the Somme, and Mentioned in Dispatches. He published more books in 1915, 1917 and in the 1920s. In 1918, with the temporary rank of Major, Fox was a General Staff Officer at the War Office, and in 1919 was awarded an O.B.E. and the Belgian Order of the Crown.

In 1923 Fox was Secretary of the Fellowship of the British Empire Exhibition and in 1926 was knighted. Sir Frank Fox organized the British Empire Cancer Campaign in northern England in 1927-29 and the Empire Rheumatism Council in 1936-46. Sir Frank visited Australia and New Zealand in 1935. He died in Chichester in Sussex in 1960.

The artist Percy Frederick Seaton Spence (1868-1933) was born in Balmain, Sydney. His father had a government appointment in Fiji, where Percy spent his youth and painted some competent watercolours. By 1888, Percy had returned to Sydney, where he worked as an illustrator for the Daily Telegraph, Illustrated Sydney News and the Bulletin. Percy Spence was an original member of the Brush Club, a group founded by D.H., Souter within the Royal Art Society of NSW. Spence entered the Society’s annual exhibitions in 1888-1894 and in 1893 his painting The Ploughman, purchased by the National Art Gallery of NSW, was hung in the 1893 Chicago Exposition. Spence shared a studio with W. Lister Lister and gained a reputation as a portraitist. Percy completed two drawings of Robert Louis Stevenson in Sydney in 1893: the first was destroyed as it displeased the writer’s wife; the other is now in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Spence travelled with his wife and two young daughters in 1898 to London, where he contributed to the Graphic, Sphere, Illustrated London News, Punch and other journals. He illustrated Britain's Austral Empire (1901) and several adventure books. A member of the Chelsea Arts Club, from 1899 he exhibited with the Royal Academy of Arts (twice being 'placed on the line') and the Walker Gallery, Liverpool. Spence returned to Sydney in 1905-06, and in 1909 worked on his series of watercolours for Frank Fox's Australia (London, 1910).

In 1914 Spence completed a large commissioned painting, H. M. Australian Fleet arriving at Sydney Heads, and returned to London to arrange for its presentation, with a watercolour of Rear Admiral George Patey, to King George V; both works are now in Buckingham Palace. During World War I Percy Spence served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. From 1915 until about 1926 he had a studio in Kensington, London. Spence made at least one further visit to Sydney in the early 1920s. An artist of great versatility, Spence is best remembered for his portraits, many of which were highly praised by his contemporaries. His portraits are held by the Mitchell Library, the University of Sydney, the High Court of Australia, Canberra, and in many other Collections. Spence died in 1933 in Middlesex Hospital, London.

Price: $130.00

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