Sharing a family treasure
By EMMA CORNFORD
IN 1872 Louis Robinson stood in the doorway of his hotel, the European, in Solferino as photographer John William Lindt set up his tripod and took a picture of the township.
Dapper in a dark waistcoat, Louis stood alongside four other men enjoying their drinks, his left hand deep in his pocket.
After the photograph was taken, Louis decided he would purchase a print from Lindt, presumably as a keepsake.
It was a two-panel panorama, an extremely rare type of image which Louis framed and kept until he died in 1923, when it was passed on to his eldest son, Henry Robinson.
Henry had it hung on a wall of the family farmhouse at Bungawalbin until 1965, when he died, and it was again passed on, this time to his nephew and Louis' grandson, Ian Robinson.
For the past 40 years Mr Robinson, the former State Member for Casino and Federal Member for Cowper and Page, has treasured the picture as it took pride of place in his living room in Grafton.
While he may cherish the photograph, Mr Robinson and his wife Florence have decided to donate the picture to the Grafton Regional Gallery in a bid to further the Gallery's Lindt acquisitions and help transform it into a 'world recognised' collection.
"I'm a very strong supporter of the Gallery and the collection of the various items that are a history of the Clarence," Mr Robinson said.
"The Lindt (Aboriginal photograph) collection has been donated by the Cullens and now these additional ones are being acquired so it seems very appropriate that this photo should go to the Gallery and be properly preserved.
"Another reason is for future generations to have a better appreciation of the history of the area ... and so the relationship between a lot of these records and the Lindt Aboriginal photographs is important too."
According to Lindt researcher Ken Orchard, Mr Robinson's photograph is one of only two known original prints of the Solferino township image.
"When I saw it I thought 'wow ? look at that' because it is such a rare print," Mr Orchard said.
"There is likely to be another one in an archive somewhere, but effectively, there are only two known prints.
"The other thing about it is that ... to my knowledge this doublepanelled image is one of the only known multi-panelled images made in (Lindt's) lifetime, so historically and from an artistic point of view it is very unusual and quite significant."
Mr Robinson said that the Cullens' donation had partly inspired him to donate his own picture.
"I thought that it was a very generous action on their part but it also gave the basis for a really valuable asset in recording the history of the Clarence Valley," Mr Robinson said.
He said he was proud his picture would also go to the Gallery and help preserve the Clarence Valley's past.
"I think it will also be worth more at the Gallery because no matter what you do, you can't be sure what the future holds for things of this sort."
But the future looks promising for the image.
The Gallery will apply for a government grant to have it restored to ensure it will be preserved for future generations. This may cost close to $1500, but it will bring it up to the standard of the other Solferino photos.