Skip to main content

The National Portrait Gallery is temporarily closed to the public until further notice.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

George Hoyningen-Huene and Jessie the Barmaid

1937
Max Dupain OBE

gelatin silver photograph on paper (image: 30.0 cm x 35.0 cm, sheet: 31.8 cm x 36.0 cm)

Jessie Sinden was a barmaid at the Brooklyn Hotel on George Street in Sydney when she was 'discovered' by Baron George Hoyningen-Huene, a high-profile American fashion photographer and Hollywood figure. Hoyningen-Huene visited Sydney for five days in December 1937, where David Jones commissioned him to photograph a fashion assignment for The Home magazine and he met with photographer Max Dupain. In this 1937 photograph by Dupain, Hoyningen-Huene is depicted adjusting a light above a smiling model. A pencil inscription on the bottom of the photograph, which was originally deciphered as 'Huene + Trixie the Mermaid', led to an exhaustive investigation into mermaids of the 1930s. However, a newspaper report on Hoyningen-Huene's 1937 visit to Australia eventually revealed that the inscription in fact read 'Jessie the barmaid'. In the newspaper report, Hoyningen-Huene likened her to 'Mae West, Manet and Folies Bergere all rolled into one'. Initially refusing to divulge her name, Hoyningen-Huene commented 'she is the most interesting woman I have found in my recent travels'. When Sinden's identity was revealed some days later, she explained 'the baron asked me if I'd pose for him. I told him I had only my bar dress on, and it was full of beer. You know how it is. He said it doesn't matter'. After the shoot, Hoyningen-Huene said he would take the negatives of Sinden to Hollywood with him. Captured in Dupain's photograph is this small exchange featuring an Australian barmaid's '15 minutes of fame' with a 'big-time' international photographer.

Gift of Danina Dupain Anderson 2021. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
© Max Dupain/Copyright Agency, 2021

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Max Dupain OBE (age 26 in 1937)

George Hoyningen-Huene (age 37 in 1937)

Jessie Sinden (age 32 in 1937)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Sydney Ure Smith
Sydney Ure Smith
Sydney Ure Smith
Sydney Ure Smith

Dupain detective

Magazine article by Johanna McMahon, 2019

Johanna McMahon revels in history and mystery in pursuit of a suite of unknown portrait subjects.

Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka
Hélène Kirsova in Petrouchka

Vintage Max

Magazine article by Gael Newton, 2003

Gael Newton delves into the life and art of renowned Australian photographer, Max Dupain.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency