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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.

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)

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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.

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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.

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