Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 26 Spring 2010 Contents 190 INSITE SPRING 2010
WA colonial is being tagged one of Australia’s most covetable
periods. Georgina Walsh rediscovers this furniture movement
hen we think antiques, we
tend to think 19th-century
European furniture, ancient
Chinese porcelain, perhaps
even Singer sewing machines and 1950s
tea sets. It’s not often we would think to
include Australian-made furniture, let
alone West Australian-made pieces.
However, a very interesting and important
period in WA’s history has produced some
significant items that have a strong following
among antiques experts, dealers and
collectors. And if the word of one of the most
informed local collectors is anything to go
by, this niche market could one day be highly
sought after and extremely valuable.
The story of WA colonial furniture makes it
the rarest of all Australian colonial furniture.
It takes in all furniture made in WA before the
1890s gold rush and the subsequent population
surge that marked a leap in prosperity of the
State. From there came a change in furniture
production to more elaborate and luxurious,
Formally founded in 1829, the WA
colony struggled compared with its eastern
counterparts. Poor organisation, lack of
labour and loss of workmen to the goldfields
in Australia’s East all contributed to the lack
of prosperity. Further arrival of convicts and
free settlers during the 1850s and 60s added
bulk to the colony, resulting in an increase
in public buildings and private houses, and a
subsequent need for furniture.
However, it was still a small and poor
colony, and mostly only essential items were
made. The f urniture, largely made from local
jarrah, is characterised by its conservative
nature and lack of adornment, much of its
influence coming from the simple, stylised
regency furniture of Europe. What remains
today of the WA colonial furniture makes
up a very niche collecting field.
Long-time antiques collector Marie
Louise Wordsworth has been collecting
WA colonial pieces for 40 years, her Perth
home almost a museum to the period.
“What attracted me to this furniture in the
beginning was that it was so rare. So, when
I did see some pieces, I bought them,” she
explains. “Then I started researching and
found out what was good, what wasn’t, what
was genuine and what wasn’t.”
At an exhibition at Lauder & Howard
Antiques and Fine Art in 1988, Marie Louise
added numerous items to her collection,
which now totals dozens of pieces. Mark
Howard, of Lauder & Howard, says that the
bookcase she purchased (pictured) is one
of the finest jarrah bookcases he has ever
seen, pointing out that it was such a rare,
luxurious item for the colonial period.
Marie Louise believes that as a young
country and an even younger State, there’s
a perception that there’s no history in WA.
“As WA gets older, I think there will be
more interest in our original history.” She
believes these types of antiques will become
extremely valuable, and any opportunity to
snap up a piece shouldn’t be missed.
One such opportunity will be at an
exhibition of WA colonial furniture at Lauder
& Howard in Fremantle from September 18.
It has taken Mark Howard and Les Lauder
20 years to collect enough items for this
exhibition, which includes two extremely
rare bookcases and a tripod table. Also in the
same exhibition will be a group of WA art
deco travel posters and a collection of late-
19th-century WA naive oils, largely of the
South-West and Blackwood Valley views.
Lauder & Howard, 17 Blinco St, Fremantle,
(08) 9335 3856, lauderandhoward.com .au .
Pride of place in Marie Louise
Wordsworth’s WA colonial
furniture collection is held by
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