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Thomas Foster Chuck

1826 – 1898

Thomas Foster Chuck (1826-1898), photographer and entrepreneur, was born in London and arrived in Victoria in 1861. The following year he produced and toured a ‘Grand Moving Diorama’ of dramatic painted scenes from the Burke and Wills expedition. By 1866 he had established a studio in Daylesford and examples of his work were shown at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition that year. Returning to Melbourne, he occupied a series of studios before opening the ‘London Portrait Gallery’ in rooms in the Royal Arcade on Bourke Street. There, in 1870, he commenced work on his mammoth Historical Picture of The Explorers and Early Colonists of Victoria, a photographic mosaic composed of over 700 individual photographs of prominent citizens. The work was finally completed in 1872 and is said to have been quite a boon for its creator, with Chuck selling individual cartes de visite and enlarged prints of many of the portraits as well as reduced prints of the composite image. Chuck submitted hand-coloured enlargements of his portraits of Justices Redmond Barry and Edward Eyre Williams to the Intercolonial Exhibition; in January 1873, the Argus reported that ‘Photographic portraits, finished in oil, watercolours, and mezzotints’, and an ‘untouched solar enlargement’ by Chuck received an honourable mention in the photographic section of the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition. Chuck forwarded the same works and a selection of smaller plain and coloured photographs to the London International Exhibition in 1874, winning a gold medal there. In 1872, he was awarded a contract to photograph the National Gallery’s collections; this resulted in eighteen photographs which were issued between 1873 and 1874 and published as Photographs of the Pictures in the National Gallery of Melbourne. In 1876 Chuck sold his Melbourne studio and moved to Ballarat where he opened his ‘Gallery of Art’ and continued to produce various types of photographic works, including hand-coloured ‘chromatypes’ (a process he claimed to have invented) and his much-admired composite portraits.

Updated 2018