Irma’s Balloon

February 26th, 2006 by Susannah

Featured Gem 3

Featured Gem 3
Mounted Photograph

‘Irma’s Balloon’

Date: August 1919
Studio: Mendelssohn.
80 Swanston St Melbourne

Subjects: Alan Sumner (10/11/1911)
and Irma Sumner (11/8/1913)

Back: This contains hand written information about the children. Alan (8yrs) and Irma (6yrs) Sumner. Born at 255 Clarke St, Northcote, 1/16 Vic. Eldest Son and only daughter of Claude J. M. Sumner and Gertrude Sumner.

Notes: The clarity of this image is wonderful. I am captivated by the balloon and it was this that drew me to the image. It’s just wonderful suspended there. Look at the reflections in the balloon of what appears to be big studio windows. I also find the children’s stare to reach right out of the photograph. They’re really looking at you. I love the textures and patterns. The upholstery on the chair against the woven carpet. There are also some nice embossed details on the card itself, a crown and a lion.

Embossed detail

Because the photograph was accompanied by such detailed notes, I decided to do some research. The internet is a wonderful thing. I had no idea what a gem I really had in my collection! It appears Alan Sumner was infact one of Australia’s most innovative mid-twentieth century artists. A search of the National Gallery of Australia’s database revealed that Alan Robert Sumner, born 10 November 1911 in Northcote, Victoria was a painter, printmaker, stained-glass designer and teacher. He died 20th October 1994. I can’t find any samples of his work online so I might investigate further as I’m very curious now!

Now I wonder what’s at 80 Swanston Street 87 years later. A quick look at the map reveals it is located almost on the corner of Collins St and Swanston, where Melbourne’s City Square is today. More specifically probably just in front of Starbucks.

I always wonder what became of all the original glass negs of all of these fabulous studio shots and imagine them filed in wonderful old wooden cabinets waiting to be discovered. The concept that they may be lost forever is too hard to think about!

2 Responses to “Irma’s Balloon”

  1. Cheryl Hunt
    June 24th, 2008 21:23

    Alan Sumner’s stained glass work includes the stained glass windows at the Art Centre, Melbourne and St. Brigid’s church, Mordialloc. His father and my great grandfather were first cousins. I’ve just happened upon your site while searching for family tree stuff.

  2. Tony
    August 3rd, 2009 21:40

    Just came across your site. Alan Sumner created all the stained glass windows at our church – St Lukes Anglican Church, Frankston East. Some of it is almost abstract.

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