22 Pacific Street: John Peter Russell and Willy Redstone

In 1921, Impressionist artist John Peter Russell returned from France and bough the fisherman’s cottage at this address. He established a studio and painted scenes of Sydney Harbour and the cliffs. While moving boulders and rocks to build a retaining wall in 1930, he had a heart attack and died.

The next resident was the family of Willy Redman, a french composer and “musical” produced director and ABC music editor. As John Peter Russell’s daughter was a singer in Paris and London, there might have been a connection between the families, and perhaps Jeanne Jouve (nee Russell) inherited the property an gave or sold it to the Redmans.

Following are various documents that tell something of their lives. Basil Burdette’s article is particularly interesting.

Russell, John Peter (1858–1930) by Ann E. Galbally

This article was published in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11 , 1988 online in 2006

John Peter Russell (1858-1930), artist, was born on 16 June 1858 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, eldest of four children of John Russell, Scottish engineer, and his wife Charlotte Elizabeth, née Nicholl, a Londoner. His father had migrated as a boy and was a partner in his brother’s engineering firm, (Sir) P. N. Russell & Co. John Peter was educated with his brother Percy (later an architect) at The Goulburn School, Garroorigang. From 18 he trained as a ‘gentleman apprentice’ with the engineering firm, Robey & Co., Lincoln, England, where he became a qualified engineer (later he was able to cast the keel of his yacht himself at Belle Ile). He maintained his childhood interest in art and made his first experiments with water-colour, delineating the Gothic outlines of Lincoln Cathedral in a misty light.

In 1877 John Russell wound up the ailing Sydney engineering works. He died suddenly in 1879: John Peter found himself with substantial means and freedom to choose his own career. After twelve months in Sydney to sort out his affairs, he enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London, on 5 January 1881. He spent four terms spread over three years under Alphonse Legros, an emigré Frenchman who emphasized draughtsmanship and memory training, then some eighteen months in Paris under Fernand Cormon. For some seven years he studied painting as it suited him, restless and unsettled, constantly breaking the routine for painting tours and holidays. He visited Spain in 1883 with Tom Roberts and Dr William Maloney, lifelong friends; another trip was to Sicily in 1887. In Paris on 8 February 1888 he married Auguste Rodin’s beautiful Italian model Marianna Antoinetta Mattiocco. That year he settled at Belle Ile, off the coast of Britanny, and built Le Chateau Anglais.

Well-built and athletic, with a preference for rowing, boxing and sailing, Russell was warm-hearted: friendships were of the greatest importance to him. He keenly felt Roberts’s return to Australia in 1885, while in Paris his friendship with van Gogh (whom he had met at Cormon’s) is commemorated by his fine portrait-study now at the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam. His meeting with Claude Monet on Belle Ile in 1886 was of the greatest importance to his style of painting and Auguste Rodin was to become a well-loved family friend.

From early beginnings in portraiture and subject painting, Russell developed into a fine seascapist, landscapist and painter of la vie intime—studies of family life. He is noted above all as a colourist and had an extensive knowledge of colours and their properties, grinding them himself on Belle Ile to obtain maximum purity. He exhibited rarely and disliked the artistic competition in London and Paris. Nevertheless he left Belle Ile after Marianna’s death in 1908, returned to Paris, then travelled with his daughter Jeanne, a singer, through southern France, settling for a time at Portofino, Italy. In Paris on 17 June 1912 he married Caroline de Witt Merrill, an American singer known as ‘Felize Medori’. World War I drew Russell back in 1915 to England where his five sons had joined the allied forces.

After the war Russell settled his fourth son Siward on the land in New Zealand. He painted numerous watercolours during his two-year stay in New Zealand before settling at Watsons Bay, Sydney, where he often painted harbour scenes from his boat. He died at Randwick on 22 April 1930 of a heart attack brought on by lifting rocks to make a harbour for his second-greatest passion, sailing boats. He was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife and their son, and six children of his first marriage survived him and inherited his estate, valued for probate at £41,973.

After Russell’s death his reputation fell into oblivion, despite the efforts of his cousin Thea Proctor. His daughter bequeathed twenty-one of his oils to the Louvre, now in the Musée Rodin, Paris. He is now represented in the main Australian galleries, although they were slow to collect his work.

Select Bibliography

A. Galbally, The Art of John Peter Russell (Melb, 1977)

H. Tannhauser, ‘Van Gogh and John Russell

some unknown letters and drawings’, Burlington Magazine, 23 (1938)

D. J. Finley, ‘John Peter Russell: Australia’s link with French Impressionism’

Royal Society of the Arts, Journal, Dec 1966

Herald (Melbourne), 15 Apr 1938

Tom Roberts papers (State Library of New South Wales)

correspondence, Auguste Rodin et John Peter Russell (Archives, Musée Rodin, Paris).Herald (Melbourne,

“Belle-Ile: Monet, Russell and Matisse in Brittany” 2001-11-24 until 2002-02-03

Art Gallery of New South Wales Sydney, , AU Australia

This exhibition brings together works by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and the Australian Impressionist John Peter Russell, who all painted on the storm-tossed island of Belle-Ile, off the coast of Brittany in north-western France. Belle-Ile, the largest of the Breton islands, was the last landfall for European ships crossing the Atlantic to the New World of the Americas. Its hardy Celtic people had in turn repelled Caesars legions, waves of marauding corsairs and attacking English troops.

Today, its population of 4,000 predominantly survive on tourism and fishing. The natural beauty of the island is dominated by its spectacularly rocky and dangerous coastline, carved by wind and water.

Painters first came to Belle-Ile in the 19th century, lured by its remoteness, the picturesque survival of a colourful way of life and the freedom and emptiness of its ocean panoramas.

In 1886 the Sydney-born art student John Russell re-visited Belle-Ile  having first discovered the island in 1883. Independently wealthy since inheriting a family fortune at the age of 21, Russell was passionate about art. He had been on the island, sketching and sailing the whole summer when he chanced upon a new arrival, painting on the windy cliff. Recognising Monet’s style, Russell asked him: “Ne seriez vous

Claude Monet, le prince des impressionists (aren’t you Claude Monet, prince of the impressionists).” Flattered and amused by this approach, Monet allowed the young artist to paint with him, and thus had a decisive influence on the development of Russell’s work.

Within two years Russell had changed his life. Leaving Paris behind he became the first non-native to settle on the island. Building a large manor house the islanders called Le Chateau de lAnglais, Russell began to realise his dream of founding a summer artists colony. His studio overlooking the wild coast welcomed a stream of visitors including the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin and his assistant, the Australian painter John Longstaff, and the young Henri Matisse who became Russell’s friend and pupil over the two summers of 1896/97.

The first time Rodin saw the ocean off the Brittany coast he exclaimed: It’s a Monet. Monet’s remarkable series of paintings of the rocks and see at Belle-le astounded the Paris art-world when he first showed them in 1887.

Inspired by Monet’s example, Russell declared to a fellow Australian artist that he now felt himself part of a mighty revolution in art because impressionism as understood here consists not of hasty sketches but in finished work in which the purity of colour and intention is kept. The breakthrough for Russell also came at Belle-Ile where he painted many of the same motifs that Monet depicted, also in pure colours, under different weather conditions and at different time of the day.

It was subsequently, under Russell’s influence, that Matisse adopted the impressionist palette and made a series of paintings of rocks and sea that were like a homage to Monet’s work of a decade earlier.

21 April, 1917                                                                                                                                        Miss Jeanne Jouve, a young singer of Australian parentage, has made a promising debut in London. One journal says that she has a deep and powerful contralto voice of long range, which she used with good effect in songs by Gluck, Monteverde, Marcello, Pergolesi, and other great composers.

Vic. : 1861 – 1954), Thursday 9 January 1930, page 12

THE WORLD OF SONG Australian Contralto in France (By The Herald Special Representative in Paris)

PARIS. November 118. Madame Jeanne Jouve, an Australian singer who has made her home in Paris, is contemplating an Australian concert tour Madame Jouve is one of the famous contraltos of the day. She is the daughter of Mr John Russell, of Pacific Street, Watson’s Bay. Sydney, a well-known painter, whose work, with its dappled sunlight effects, has often been compared with that of the famous Claude Monet. He has spent long years in France, and could claim friendship with Rodin. Steely. Monet, Anatole France, examples of whose work, with many of his own. Make Mme. Jouve’s studio one of the most attractive in Paris. The most precious of all the treasures Is a sliver bust by Rodin, the only work Rodin ever executed in silver. This most exquisite piece is to be bequeathed to the Sydney Museum. This singer has many claims to fame apart from the fact of her beautiful voice and that she is the wife of Dr. Paul Jouve, the brilliant young French doctor who is consulting physician at both the American and British Hospitals in Paris. The marriage was a romantic one. Mr Russell was convinced that his daughter must consecrate her life to her art. Ravel, the leading modern Statish composer, praised her not only for the quality and technique of her voice but for her personal magnetism. And then her life of musical study in the South of France, among the leading artists, composers, writers of the day was interrupted by illness. Later she married the young doctor who had saved her life. Mme. Jouve has sung with success all over Europe, in London and Paris. The great Salle Gaveau was crowded Iast Thursday night when she gave her first recital of the season. Included in a fascinating programme, varying from Bach to Portuguese pastorals, were two songs of the Hebrides, She unearthed them from the depths of the Paris National Library, and Is the first to sing these indent ballads In France. At the moment she is busily working on the songs of a young French composer, which she will sing at the Orange annual open-air festival. And with all this Mme. Jouve is one of the most energetic charity workers in Paris. She is especially interested in soldiers whose face were mutilated during the war and who, even now are kept in seclusion, so awful are their wounds. Mme. Jouve gives all she earns by her singing to these war sufferers

Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), Saturday 15 April 1939, page 33 An Australian Impressionist By Basil Burdett   PARIS, March 17.

Parisian art circles have just made a very interesting, not to say fascinating discovery. They have found a long-lost — not exactly forgotten, since he was never widely known — painter of the impressionist schooI, the school which, through Streeton and Roberts, has been the chief influence on landscape painting in Australia.  And the odd and extremely interesting part of the whole business is that he was an Australian. This lost brother-brush of Claude Monet and other painters of a school and generation long since become world-famous was a close friend of Monet and Rodin, among other celebrated artists, an even closer one of van Gogh, who like Monet, was his fervent admirer. It is through the finding of a number of letters from the Dutch painter by Mr. Henry Paris, that his work is likely to xxxx from obscurity and his just fame established as an important member of the school which revolutionised landscape painting during the latter half of the century.  He was John Russell, and he was born in Darlinghurst, Sydney, in 1858. a son of John Russell, of the famous Engineering firm in New South Wales Sir Peter Russell, who founded the Engineering school at Sydney University. Miss S… Proctor of Sydney, is a connection of John Russell’s family. John Russell’s name is quite well known to xxxx. Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. His name appears in them frequently. The three letters recently been published— two in English and one in French— which van Gogh wrote to Russell himself show how close their friendship was, and how strong was Vincent’s admiration for his friends’ talent. Though, now that both are dead, these letters are to prove the agency for rescuing an Australian and his work from near-oblivion. His own portrait of van Gogh, painted in 1886-7, now in the Municipal Museum in Amsterdam, is the only picture by him in a public gallery, as far as I know, either in Europe or in his native land. Russell was apparently largely responsible for his lack of public fame. He was rich and made no attempt to make his work known. It seems likely that he never sold a picture in his life.  Perhaps he was satisfied with the admiration of his friends in Paris and desired no vulgar fame. Monet who stayed and painted with him at xxx-Isle where he built himself a large house, preferred many of Russell’s seascapes to his own. The admiration of van Gogh is evident with the often-repeated desire to exchange work with him and in his sending to the Australian some of his finest drawings— three of these have recently come to life with the letters. Renoir and Rodin were his intimates. Rodin considered Russell’s beautiful young Italian wife as the most beautiful woman in Europe,” and modelled her head numerous times. She is the original of the beautiful marble, “Minerve sans Casque” In the Melbourne Gallery and of Fremiet’s Joan of Arc”.

 JEANNE JOUVE, Russell’s only surviving daughter, who is married to a French doctor and who has achieved wide fame here as a contralto lives in Paris and considers herself a good  Australian, although she has never seen her father’s native land and speaks English, although with a marked French accent. I went to see her a day or so ago in her flat in the Avenue Victoria, near the Palais Royal, and saw there many of her father’s best pictures. Seeing these strong, vital, colorful impressions of the wild Breton coast made one conscious that Europe and, worst of all, Australia have ignored for a generation a man who should occupy by right a prominent place in the ranks of the French impressionists—the only British painter directly associated with the school with the exception of Sickert, perhaps, and an Australian at that. The bringing to light of Russell’s work and van Gogh’s letters to him is a fascinating revelation of a romantic direct Australian link with both impressionism and post-impressionism of which most Australians, at least, have up till now been ignorant. Van Gogh’s letters to Russell are indeed of the first importance to students of that strange and tragic figure. They reveal, incidentally, an admirable command of English, acquired no doubt during his stay in England, It is a thousand pities that these three are the only ones to survive of the many letters van Gogh apparently wrote to Russell. A passage in the first one, in English, outlines his own artistic faith and gives a key to his work when he writes that Monticolli. for whose recognition he pleaded “gives us nor neither pretends to give social color or even local truth. But gives us something passionate and eternal … in a true colorists way.

There is something piquant, in view of the great position van Gogh occupies in European art today, about his modest and tentative request that Russell should exchange a Sicilian study with him— Russell had painted in Sicily — “in case you should have one to spare.” In the second letter he talks of a picture by Monet in which “the red sun casts an orange or blood red reflection on the blue green trees and the ground,” and of a picture he himself is working at with a “great field all violet the sky and sun very yellow.” THERE is nothing of the madman in these letters, nor even in the third one, written from St. Remy when he was under the care of Dr. Peyron. His reference to his illness in this letter sounds a serene note of philosophic resignation. “While it is not a pleasant thing to be ill.” he tells Russell, “I have no right to complain for it seems to me that nature uses illness as a means for us to find ourselves again and that it is not an absolute evil.  In this letter he makes a very interesting reference to a scheme Russell apparently had for forming a collection of pictures for his native land, perhaps for the Sydney Gallery. He asks Russell to select a picture from those he has at his brother’s in Paris “if you still have the idea of making someday a collection for your country.” Madame Jouve tells me her father did have such an idea and that years later Renoir offered him a number of works for it. But I understand that lack of sympathy for the project in Australia led to its falling through. What treasures Australia has probably missed as a result! Sydney might have had a first-rate collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pictures. Incidentally and apropos of van Gogh’s madness, Mr Thannhauscr in a recent article says that criticism, plus psychological science, is now leaning to the idea that the painter suffered, not from “chizophrenia producing great art,” but from something akin to epilepsy and without direct influence on his work. Russell died at Sydney, where he returned some time after the war. General public recognition of his art will not be long delayed now in Europe, I imagine. Let us hope his native land will not lag behind.

John Peter Russell: Rising From Obscurity

By Marianne Margin

Australian painter John Peter Russell was a close friend of Vincent Van Gogh, and our testament to this is a perceptive portrait of the Dutch master in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. So why do so few Australians know of Russell?

3 / 6

4.jpgBay of Nice, 1891, oil on canvas mounted on cardboard, 36 x 53cm



Anyone walking into the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam today is greeted on the ground floor by a series of portraits of the iconic artist. The very first one, an absolute ripper of a portrait, is by the Australian expatriate artist, John Peter Russell. A thoughtful, perceptive rendering of the man who wanted to be a great artist, worked tirelessly to be, but never really believed that he was, Russell captures the essence of the painter he wanted to be, and for that reason it was a treasured possession to Vincent. When Van Gogh sat for this portrait in 1886 he was a complete unknown with no particular prospects and few friends. Russell had the insight and deftness with his brush to produce a description of the man that now resonates with viewers who know his entire life story, laced with all of its tragedy. He recognised the conflicted soul within and laid it bare on the canvas.

The two remained close and corresponded right up until Van Gogh’s death in 1890. Though strikingly different personalities, perhaps they shared the same self-doubt in terms of artistic acumen. Russell was notoriously shy about exhibiting his work and his comfortable financial position exempted him from having to expose himself in this way. This was one of the reasons the name John Peter Russell has not come down to us as part of the history of Australian art. In truth, he belongs not to the history of Australian art so much as to the history of Western art as a whole. He encouraged and patronised artists such as Van Gogh, Lautrec and Bates; Australians Roberts and Longstaff, and the American, Dodge Macknight amongst others. He became a great friend of Auguste Rodin. He discussed colour theory and practice with Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley and passed on what he learned.

Russell is widely recognised as having had a significant influence on the young Matisse. When they first met in 1896 Matisse was just 25 and still working in delicate, subdued tones with an earthy palette in the manner of his training under Bouguereau. Matisse was invited to Russell’s home on Belle-Île, and revisited in 1897, and during these visits Russell instructed him in the manipulation of light and colour on the canvas. Russell introduced him to the discoveries of Monet, gifted him with two drawings by Van Gogh, encouraged him to experiment with the brushstroke and exposed him to Japanese prints and the theories of Impressionism. In short, he brought him into the world of the moderns and the effect was immediate and explosive. Matisse responded to and embraced colour as a vehicle of creative expression. The rest, as they say, is history.

In spite of all of this, Russell is still not as well understood in Australia as he deserves to be. After spending most of his productive working life in Europe, Russell eventually returned to Australia in 1920 where he lived quietly dissociated from the art world until his death in 1930. You are not likely to find Russell in any Australian secondary school or even on any university survey course in Australian art. One has to be introduced to him. Relatively few scholars have examined his work. Ann Galbally has made the greatest contribution, having written several titles, and catalogue essays and the most thorough biography – A Remarkable Friendship: Vincent Van Gogh and John Peter Russell (MUP 2008).

Following on from their 2001 exhibition, Belle-Île. Monet, Russell & Matisse in Brittany, the Art Gallery of New South Wales are planning a new, much more significant retrospective in 2018. With new works having surfaced over recent years, Wayne Tunnicliffe, the Head Curator of Australian Art at AGNSW, is looking forward to presenting an array of local and internationally sourced works, many of which have never been on public display before. This enables opportunities for original directions in research, with new works providing refreshed insights into the depth and breadth of Russell’s surprisingly diverse oeuvre.

Mr Tunnicliffe says, “There is renewed interest globally in international Impressionists, the English, American and Australian artists who painted alongside the French, so it is a perfect time to be reviewing and building on what we know already about Russell.”

Lara Nicholls, Assistant Curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia, says, “Painting is never out of fashion for very long and John Russell was one of Australia’s great painters, some would argue our only true Impressionist in the French manner … The question is often put as to whether he is as good as Monet and the fact that it is even asked attests to his place in art history and his relevance today.”

When considering Russell’s oeuvre as a whole, one is overwhelmingly struck by his courage with colour: colour as a tool to construct the image, colour as a subject in itself, and colour to create mood. Monet was known for his series works, such as the haystacks and La Cathédrale de Rouen, where he revisited exactly the same place many times in different lights to show the changing faces and moods of a single place, primarily employing colour.

With its constantly changing form, light and contour, the ocean as a subject is the perfect vehicle for a virtuoso colourist such as Monet, and indeed Russell, to experiment with the potential of pure colour as an end in and of itself. Both painters recognised the island of Belle-Île as the ideal painting spot. For Russell it became both his home and his obsession. Its wildness and remoteness suited Russell’s adventurous temperament, while the constantly changing moods of the sea provided inexhaustible subject matter.

Russell’s method mimicked the wild weather and violence of the waves, becoming progressively looser and bolder. He “slapped” and “whacked” the paint on, building up layers of impasto as evidenced in ‘Stormy Sky and Sea: Belle Ile, off Brittany’, c.1890. Landforms are dispensed with here and the ocean’s movement is paramount, the turmoil of the waves and the feeling that the atmosphere invokes within the artist are key. In this he could be said to have been decades ahead of the abstract expressionists. Russell struggled with the physicality of the medium and how to achieve the colour quality he desired. He found problems with the new, prepared paints which led to a preference for his own traditional methods of blending paints using pure pigments. He learned to capture the brightest hues without mixing, avoiding the associated darkening effects, which he feared.

Russell puzzled over how to manage the long drying process in the damp climate of Belle-Île. He preferred an emotively expressive rendering and developed experimental brush techniques to aid the dual goals of colour purity and a lively, painterly surface. Russell’s ability as a colourist exceeded his talent for composition and that could be because the expression was prioritised over the execution. Russell cared more about how his work communicated feeling than how it described a scene. He didn’t study the ocean to create the picturesque. Russell points out that “I am a painter of nature, of nature’s moods, of sunlight and the changing temper of the sea.”

Within the paintings left to us we can see evidence that Russell’s own moods and story are played out on the surfaces of his oceans, and canvases. ‘Bay of Nice’ (1891) with its cluster of little boats, golden sands, and gentle, green-flecked tides depicts the calm, unhurried, leisurely feeling of a painter en vacances. During the Belle-Île years Russell’s colour experimentation led him to a high-keyed but minimal palette. In paintings of his wife and children, the sea resonates with saturated cobalt and ultramarine, the gardens with cadmium yellow, Chinese vermillion, viridian and Veronese green. He eschews browns and black. Can there be a greater depiction of colour and warmth than ‘Boys on the Beach, Belle Ile’ (c. 1904-06)? There is great joy in this picture, its surface truly sparkles with familial contentment, combined with a celebration of youth, vitality and nature.

Equally dedicated to painting in watercolour, Russell found the medium suited his purpose of painting directly from the motif, en plein air. His watercolour palette did not differ greatly from his oils, favouring bright, pure hues. His method was to lay down a brief outline sketch and then apply the paint rapidly.

As always, form concerned him less than the combination of colour that he could achieve and in this medium, speed wins out over precision. ‘Chalk cliffs at Goulphar Bay’ (1907) is a charming example of a scene briefly captured in situ. Vibrant orange sailboats bobbing on waves of blue, green and purple, amidst rolling cliffs daubed in rainbow shades.

Sadness too is evident in one highly poignant work by Russell executed shortly after the death of his cherished wife. Marianna had died in Paris from cancer on 30 March, 1908, aged 42. Russell and his surviving six children returned to Belle-Île to bury her amidst the deepest of grief. Just under six weeks after this loss Russell painted an image of Belle-Île unlike all others. Inscribed at the lower edge of this sombre watercolour is ‘Fog May 9, 1908’. In gentle tones of aqua, lilac and pink, it depicts the oppressive fog settled over the bay and the sorrow within his own being. Without the need for darkness Russell perfectly expresses his melancholy. In the same period, he wrote to Rodin expressing his torment – “Je suis passe’ par l’enfer”. Unable to stay in the family home without Marianna, Russell sold up and left the island, apparently destroying around 400 of his paintings at the same time. He must have been deciding on this sad course as he painted this watercolour.

There are several good reasons that Russell has remained largely unknown in Australia: during the greater part, and most important years of his career, he was absent from Australia and thus he was never involved in the nationalistic fervour of some of his Australian compatriots. He exhibited rarely, in step with his European contemporaries of the progressive school, and there survive no grand-scale, monumental paintings to consume the wall of a major institution and demand the attention of the public.

More than anything though, it could be said that he was an artist’s artist. His correspondence tells us that he was most concerned with understanding the essence and reality of the process, the struggle with the medium and with his goal of expressing feeling and sensation on the canvas. He was not painting to satisfy dealers, patrons or a public audience, only himself and his respected peers, so he enjoyed a freedom of personal and artistic expression most artists would envy.

LOT 72


(1859-1930) Dadone c.1900 Sold for AU$ 79,300 inc. premium 26 Jun 2013, 11:00 ESTJOHN PETER RUSSELL (1859-1930) Dadone c.1900
signed and inscribed ‘DADONe / J.R / FeciT’ upper right
oil on canvas
30.0 x 23.5cm (11 13/16 x 9 1/4in).

    The collection of the artist Mme Jeanne Jouve, his eldest child and only daughter
    Gift to her favourite singing pupil in 1948 Private collection, Paris, purchased in 2000
    Fine Australian Art, Sotheby’s, Melbourne, 19 September 2005, lot 10 (illus.)
    The Reg Grundy AC OBE and Joy Chambers-Grundy Collection, acquired in 2005

    The subject of this vibrant oil sketch can be identified by his appearance in another double portrait inscribed ‘Maria Peppa-Y-Pascal Mattiocco’ signed and dated 1902 and known as Les deux Mattiocco’1 Russell has inscribed the work ‘Dadone’ which means ‘ancestor’ or ‘old one’ in Italian dialect, indicating a familial relationship with the subject. Indeed it is his father-in-law Pasquale Mattiocco, father of Russell’s wife Anna Maria Antoinette (known as Marianna) Mattiocco and grandfather of Russell’s six surviving children.

    A warm, intimate profile study it is predominantly worked in blues, greys and white warmed by the flesh tones of the face. Boldly and rather loosely handled brushstrokes show no hesitancy in picking out the bony structure of the head, the luxuriant greying hair and beard and the simple jacket and shirt the subject is wearing. The work is closely based on a red conte crayon sketch on beige paper of Pasquale in the same profile pose but extended to include the subject’s shoulder and lower arm. The drawing2 is inscribed ‘JPR’ and dated ‘ ’00’ which suggests that this oil too was done in 1900.

    The ease and skill with which Russell paints this portrait of a beloved family member is based on his long-standing interest and training in portraiture. He began his studies at the Slade School in January 1881 under émigré Frenchman Alphonse Legros, famous for demonstrating his ébauches (oil sketches) of heads in front of his students. Russell first exhibited portraits with the Art Society of NSW in 1883, nine in all. His subjects reflected his own social position – members of the upper bourgeoisie, the professional classes and artists and people of culture. In Paris he painted portraits of friends and fellow students at the atelier Cormon, including the famous head of van Gogh.3 Over the twenty years he lived on Belle Ile his preferred subject-matter became the island and its surrounding seas but he did still draw and paint portraits, now largely of family members, none of which were ever exhibited.

    Dadone represents a type, not just an individual. Russell had always been socially rebellious, preferring the company of artists to the bourgeoisie he had been born into and identifying with those that worked the land or lived off their skills as seafarers. Dadone, ‘the ancestor’, represents the peasant type at its very best. Unable to read or write and with little wealth Pasquale Mattiocco nevertheless represents dignity, strength and character. His gaze is resolute and steadfast, lacking any self-pity. Dadone could have stepped from the pages of a Victor Hugo novel.

    Dr Ann Galbally

    1 Sold Sotheby’s, Sydney, April 1989, lot 419
    2 Private collection, France
    3 1886, Now in the Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

26th June 1940

I, CHARLES ADOLPHE WILLY ROTTENSTEIN, known as WILLY REDSTONE, of French nationality, born at Deull, France, and resident 17 years in Australia, now residing at 22 Pacific Street, Watson’s Bay, intend to apply for naturalisation under the Nationality Act, 1920-1036.

Willy Redstone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Willy (or Willie) Redstone (24 September 1883 – 30 September 1949) was a French composer and conductor of light music who had a substantial career in England and Australia, where he became music editor for the ABC.


Redstone (originally Rottenstein)[1] was born in Paris, a nephew of the composer Charles Gounod (his mother was a half-sister). and cousin of Albert Carré, director of the Paris Opéra-Comique.[2] His parents were in Paris as refugees from Strasbourg, which had fallen to Germany in 1870.

He trained in Paris to be an engineer, but was more interested in music. He was four years at the Paris Conservatoire, on a scholarship won through his talent as a pianist.[2] He studied harmony and counterpoint under Massenet.[3] His first composition, at the age of 20,[4] was a light opera which ran at the Théâtre des Arts for thirty weeks in 1905, setting his future as a writer of light music. He was also in demand by theatre directors in Paris and London as a conductor, arranger and orchestrator.[5] For Georges Gabriel Thenon he wrote the revue À perte de revue (1906), staged at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal starring Paul Ardot, the operetta Le Trou d’Almanzor (1907) at the Théâtre des Arts. He was commissioned to write a three-act burlesque on Edmond Rostand’s Chantecler,[3] named Mik 1ier, with libretto by Charles-Alexis Carpentier (died 1929), published in 1911.[6]


Redstone wrote some music for the Tiller Girls, who were at the time performing in Paris. This led to an invitation by John Tiller to visit his dance school in Manchester, and incidentally married one of his star performers.[2] In 1907 he conducted a Christmas pantomime in Leeds, and later was associated with George Grossmith and George Edwardes at the London Gaiety, writing scores for musical comedies and revues.[4] He wrote the revue Everybody’s Doing It which was produced at the Empire.[3] He worked as musical adviser for André Charlot at the Alhambra Theatre, writing the revues Eight pence a Mile and Keep Smiling with Lee White.

He composed the operetta Les Petits Crevés for Thenon, staged in 1913 at the Théâtre des Capucines, starring Jacques Bousquet. Songs published around this time include Lucy (1913) and Arabella (1914), both with lyrics by Pierre Chapelle.[6] He contributed to Reynaldo Hahn’s operetta Miousic, libretto by Paul Ferrier, staged in 1914 at the Paris Olympia. He composed the operetta Berlingot with A. Stanislas for Lucien Boyer, staged in 1920 at the Concert Mayol.

At the outbreak of WWI he was in Paris, fulfilling a commitment to write three musical comedies,[3] In August 1914 he joined the French army, but was back at the Alhambra a year later, having been discharged in December as disabled,[4] following an accident during the retreat from Belgium,[3] which had far-reaching consequences for his newborn son George — with the outbreak of WWII he was posted as a deserter and papers served for his extradition despite only living in the country for few months as a baby, and not speaking a word of French.[7]

When Charlot left the Alhambra, Redstone found employment with Grossmith and Laurillard, conducting To-Night’s the Night, Theodore and Co, and Yes, Uncle!.[2] and it may have been around this time that he was associated with concert and stage personalities Leslie Henson, Tom Walls, Alice Delysia, Mistinguett, Maurice Chevalier, and C. B. Cochran.[5] Songs composed around this time include Marche des gavroches (March of the Ragamuffins, 1916) with words by L. Boyn and Pierre Forgettes.[6] It was during the run of Yes, Uncle! that he was recalled to the French army to act as an Agent, and interpreter with the American forces. Two years later he was back with Grossmlth and Laurillard to conduct Kissing Time at the Winter Garden. He was then commissioned to write the music for A Night Out. He was for a time at Daly’s Theatre with The Maid of the Mountains starring Jose Collins, and later toured with that production.[3]

Redstone wrote a song Were You the Only Girl in the World, which he sold to London publisher Bert Feldman for £5 (some references say five guineas — £5/5s.), thereupon losing all rights to his composition. Nat D. Ayer took the song, changed the verses, and as If You Were the Only Girl (In the World) it was used in the revue The Bing Boys on Broadway and became a “hit”.[8]


In 1922 he was appointed musical director for Hugh J. Ward, who was about to tour Australia with The O’Brien Girl, starting with his new Princess Theatre in Melbourne, which ran for 202 performances, and Tangerine for 101. Ward had purchased the rights to the play Tons of Money, which fared poorly in Melbourne, but recast as a musical with numbers by Redstone to lyrics by Vaib Solomon it was well received and had long seasons there and in Sydney’s Grand Opera House.

His next project as musical director was No, No, Nanette, the first musical he conducted for which he did not contribute any original work.[3] This was followed by Lady Be Good in 1927.

In 1928 he was called on by J. C. Williamson to take charge of the first symphony concert to be broadcast in Australia.

He joined the ABC in 1932, and in 1938 was appointed its Federal Musical Editor; it was said he could write out a fresh arrangement for full symphony orchestra as swiftly as most people write a letter.[9] He exercised this facility for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.[10]

Redstone, Lindley Evans and Alfred Hill composed the score for Charles Chauvel’s 1940 film Forty Thousand Horsemen.[11] and was also involved in Chauvel’s Rats of Tobruk (1944) alongside Lindley Evans and Charles Mackerras. He also composed the score for Lee Robinson’s 1949 documentary Crocodile Hunters, commissioned by the Department of Information.[12] Perhaps his most famous work in this period was an arrangement of John Brown’s Body.[1]

He retained his youthful interest in engineering and had an expert knowledge of aeronautics.[1]

He died in Sydney after a short illness, and his remains were cremated.[13] His last completed work was The Sphinx, a ballet suite for orchestra.[14] He was currently engaged on a musical “Life of Christ” with one Oscar Walters.[15]


Willy Redstone was born Charles Willy Adolphe Rottenstein in Paris on 24 September 1883, a son of Johann Baptist (or Jean Baptiste) Rottenstein and Jeanne Marie Marguerite Baretty. Redstone married Florence Annie Osborne, an accomplished dancer and comedienne,[16] in Paris on 23 July 1914. Though known as Redstone, the surname Rottenstein was not relinquished.[17]

George John Frederick Redstone (born in France 23 June 1914)[7] married June Lorraine Johnson in 1940. His arrangement of Advance Australia Fair was recorded by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conductor Henry Krips on 4 May 1968.[18]

Laurette Jeanne Redstone married Thomas John Collins (born Deniliquin 21 May 1925)[19]

Wesley Redstone (born in Melbourne 12 June 1923),[16]

Tony Redstone

Jacqueline Redstone

They had a home at Pacific Street, Watson’s Bay, later at 21 Fairweather Street, Bellevue Hill.[20]

See also

“Oevres de Willie Redstone”. BnF. Retrieved 23 April 2020. 35 works listed 1908–1921


 “Necrologie”. Le Courrier Australien. New South Wales, Australia. 7 October 1949. p. 5. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Music and Drama”. The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 15 September 1923. p. 10. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Stage and Screen”. The Herald (Melbourne). Victoria, Australia. 8 August 1925. p. 20. Retrieved 20 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Nanette’s Musical Director”. Truth. New South Wales, Australia. 21 March 1926. p. 16. Retrieved 20 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Death of Willy Redstone”. Centralian Advocate. Northern Territory, Australia. 28 October 1949. p. 11. Retrieved 20 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Oevres de Willie Redstone”. BnF. Retrieved 23 April 2020. Carpentier also wrote libretti for composers Édouard Mathé (1863–1936), José Padilla (1889–1960), Maurice Yvain (1891–1965)

 “Won’t Obey Call to Foreign Legion”. The Daily News (Sydney). New South Wales, Australia. 30 November 1939. p. 2. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Contact”. The Sun (Sydney). New South Wales, Australia. 16 September 1946. p. 1. Retrieved 20 April 2020 – via Trove.

 Australian Broadcasting Commission (22 October 1949), “Willy Redstone Loss to ABC”, ABC Weekly, ABC, 11 (43), retrieved 20 April 2020

 “Symphony Orchestra Here This Month”. The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser. New South Wales, Australia. 9 May 1949. p. 4. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “The Music Hour”. South Coast Bulletin. Queensland, Australia. 28 December 1949. p. 7. Retrieved 20 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Notes On The Beat”. The Sunday Herald (Sydney). New South Wales, Australia. 6 March 1949. p. 10. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove. here referred to as “William Redstone”

 “A.B.C. music editor dies”. The Daily Telegraph (Sydney). New South Wales, Australia. 1 October 1949. p. 9. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove. This obit includes a photo of Redstone.

 “Composer of Famous Song Hit Dies”. The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 1 October 1949. p. 1. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Sydney Diary”. The Sun (Sydney). New South Wales, Australia. 5 August 1949. p. 11. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Plays and the People In Them”. The Sporting Globe. Victoria, Australia. 20 June 1923. p. 12. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove. }}

 “A714, 10/4864”. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 April 2020.

 “B883, NX118304”. National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 22 April 2020.

 “Family Notices”. The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 4 January 1941. p. 12. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

 “Family Notices”. The Sydney Morning Herald. New South Wales, Australia. 1 October 1949. p. 36. Retrieved 22 April 2020 – via Trove.

Daily News (Sydney, NSW : 1938 – 1940), Thursday 30 November 1939, page 2

WON’T OBEY CALL TO FOREIGN LEGION                                                                                                                           AT only three weeks’ notice, the French Government has called up George Redstone, 25, a music writer for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to serve with the French Foreign Legion in Indo-China. Redstone, who lives with his French father and English mother in Pacific Street, Watson’s Bay, does not intend to obey the command.

His father is Mr. Willy Redstone. Federal Music Editor for the ABC. and a very well-known composer and music writer. Although he lived only the first six months of his life in France, Redstone is a French subject liable to be conscripted for military service if he goes to a French territory. He has been in Australia since 1922, and for seven years before that lived In England. He cannot speak a word of French.                                                                                                                                                                                                        Not Naturalised

He is not a naturalised Australian because he was under the impression that his, long period of domicile here automatically naturalised him. The call-up for service was conveyed to him on November 18 by the French Consul-General in Sydney leaving Australia for Indo-China on The Consul advised Redstone that he would have to respond to the call-up and sail on the appointed day. Legal opinion, however, was that as long as Redstone remained on British soil, the French Government was powerless to implement the order. The thing that’s worrying me most of all is that I don’t want people to consider me a deserter, because I am going to miss the ship/’ said Mr. Redstone yesterday. “I am as much Australian as anyone born here, and I Intend to apply for naturalisation to-day. ”As soon as I am naturalised, I will join the militia and be trained so that, whenever my services are required, I can go to the war. “I feel I can serve France better as a soldier in the Australian Army than as a member of a force which would be entirely foreign to me. “In addition, I am not anxious to Join the French Foreign Legion in Indo-Chlna, as I understand it is regarded as the lowest branch of the French Army. . I was born on June 23, 1914, and, but. for an accident to my father, I would have been, bom in London, instead of Paris. . “My mother, who is English, had arranged to go to London. My father’s accident compelled her to remain in Paris until I was six months old. . Called At 21 “While I was in England, my father served for France during the war as a Secret Service man and later as interpreter for the American Aviation Corps. “When I became 21, the French Government called on me to return to France and Join the Army. “I replied that I could not do that, as I was permanently settled to Australia, and was studying music at the Conservatorium. Shortly afterwards I was officially notified that I had been posted as a deserter. Pardoned “I heard nothing more until two weeks ago, when I received on official communication stating that I had been pardoned tor the desertion and had been called up to go to Saigon (Indo-China) “In this war, France and Britain are fighting as united force. Any service I can give as a French-Australian will be given willingly.”

4th Jan 1941 Engagements Announced MISS LAURETTE JEANNE REDSTONE, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Willy Redstone, of Watson’s Bay, and Sergeant Thomas John Collins, A.IF., eldest son of Mr. R. Collins, of Manly, and Mrs. L. De Berg, of Waverley, have announced then: engagement.

%d bloggers like this: