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Maria Windeyer
, c.1865-1868

by Freeman Brothers

albumen paper carte de visite on brown paper studio folder (backing sheet: 12.7 cm x 8.9 cm, support: 10.5 cm x 6.5 cm, image: 9.0 cm x 5.8 cm)

More images of this artwork

Maria Windeyer (née Camfield, 1795–1878), landowner, emigrated to New South Wales in 1835 with her husband Richard, a barrister, and their infant son, William Charles. In addition to establishing a practice in Sydney, Richard acquired land on the Hunter River, buying property at Raymond Terrace in 1838. The homestead they built there – Tomago House – was designed by Maria and became the centre of an extensive agricultural property, its crops including tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane. In 1839 Maria reported that her husband was earning good money as a barrister, but that ‘it makes no show at present, being all laid out in land and swamp.’ By 1842, Tomago had grown to almost 30,000 acres, thirty of which were dedicated to the vines from which they produced their first wine in 1845. Meanwhile, Richard had purchased a house in Sydney which, combined with his ambitions for Tomago, led to perilously large debts. These worries contributed to his death, aged 41, in December 1847. Maria was left owing some £9000 on the property. Having managed the business side of Tomago since 1844, however, Maria refused to resign herself meekly to impecunious widowhood. With some assistance and through refinancing and the part sale of Tomago, she was able to retain the house and surrounding land, including the vineyards. She later dismissed the superintendent and ran everything herself, doing her own domestic work to save money and earning an income through sales of beef, preserves and wine. She hired a German winemaker in 1849 and in 1855 one of her wines was awarded a certificate of merit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. She died at Tomago in December 1878, aged 83. Partly because of his mother’s experiences, William Charles Windeyer (1834–1897) developed a particular interest in women’s rights and as NSW attorney-general was responsible for the introduction of the Married Women's Property Act in 1879.

Brothers William (1809–1895) and James Freeman (1814–1870) emigrated to New South Wales in 1853 and 1854 respectively, having become involved in photography in England soon after the invention of the daguerreotype. In Sydney they were initially in business with John Wheeler before branching out on their own in 1855. In March that year they announced that their revamped studio was ‘the most perfect room in the colony’ for photography, boasting a 45 square-metre skylight and a ‘separate dressing compartment for ladies’. The brothers began offering cartes de visite in 1862 and subsequently produced thousands of portraits in the format. In the late 1860s they opened a new premises on Castlereagh Street which included an outdoor gallery for taking ‘Equestrian Portraits, Groups, Horses, Dogs and Cats’. Having briefly returned to England – where James Freeman died – William came back to Sydney and continued the business, operating from several George Street locations. He won first prize for his photographs at the Centennial Exhibition in Melbourne in 1888, after which he retired to Goulburn and then Newcastle. The photograph of Maria Windeyer is a Freeman Brothers print from a negative acquired when the firm took over Edwin Dalton’s business around 1868: Sydney’s Mitchell Library – which has 18,000 Freeman negatives – has a copy of the same carte bearing Dalton’s logo and the inscription ‘Maria W / 1865’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of J.B. Windeyer 2018
Accession number: 2018.44