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Australian art


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Townsend Duryea

United States of America, Australia

1823 - 1888


The brothers Townsend and Sanford Duryea were American-born professional photographers who founded photographic studios in Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth in the 1850s. Townsend had established a daguerreotype studio in Brooklyn in 1840, only a year after the process had been made public, and in 1853 arrived in Melbourne, followed by Sanford in 1854, where they established two studios in collaboration with Archibald McDonald. In 1855 the pair opened a studio in Adelaide, trading as Duryea brothers. Business thrived, and in 1856 they made a tour of the state, offering their services in a number of country towns. In 1858 Sanford opened the first photographic studios in Perth and Fremantle. During the early 1860s the Duryea studios were renowned for their fine quality cartes de visite portraits. Sanford returned to New York in 1863 but Townsend remained in Adelaide, where his studio was the busiest photographic practice in town, in possession of over 47,000 negatives by 1870. In addition to portraits, Townsend made panoramas and was appointed official photographer to the royal tour of HRH Duke of Edinburgh to Adelaide in 1867, capturing him on a kangaroo hunt. From 1892 to 1906, Richard and Frank Duryea, sons of the late Townsend, reopened the Duryea Brothers studio, trading as itinerant photographers in South Australia.

A carte de visite is a stiff card of about 10 x 6.4 cm, with an attached paper photograph, invented in 1854 by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disderi. They were introduced into Australia in 1859 by William Blackwood with albums arriving in 1860, aiding the collection and distribution of multiple cartes. Cartes were usually portraits and were made by the millions worldwide. Multi-lens, or ‘multiplying’ cameras were introduced in the 1860s, which were capable of producing from 2 to 32 images in quick succession, dramatically increasing the number of cartes de visite that could be made from a single photographic plate. They were easily reproduced by making paper contact prints from the glass plates, which were then cut and pasted to card.




Media category


Materials used

carte de visite


9.5 x 5.9 cm image; 10.1 x 6.4 cm mount card

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 2014


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Townsend Duryea

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 245 (colour illus.).