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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer

4

Hand-coloured photograph of Oscar Asche in Chu Chin Chow 1923

2008.0044.0054

Object information

What

Type

Collection

Dimensions

W 213mm x H 313mm

Material

Physical Description

A hand-coloured cut-out signed photograph on grey card featuring the handwritten caption 'OSCAR ASCHE / CHU-CHIN-CHOW / 1923 / (SNAP TAKEN IN THEATRE)'.

Statement of Significance

The Herbert Browne collection consists of personal items belonging to Herbert Browne, an English-born musical theatre performer who established himself as the leading tenor with Australia's JC Williamson's Company in the period between the two world wars. The collection comprises Aboriginal and oriental objects, photographs, theatrical and biographical notes, theatre programs, news-clippings, correspondence, gramophone recordings, cosmetics and accessories from Browne's theatrical make-up business.

Herbert Browne's life in Australia from the age of twenty six reads like a history of Australian popular entertainment, with its ups and downs, its preoccupations and its relationship to wider trends in aesthetics and material culture in Australian life. Browne's interests in objects were tethered to the entertainment industry and the wider social world in which he operated. Browne's travels across the Nullabor with JC Williamson's found expression through his collections of Aboriginal artefacts, his films and photograph albums. His Aboriginal objects and associated images provide rare glimpses into the way urban Australians encountered remote Aboriginal culture. They also document his relationship with the legendary Daisy Bates, from whom he acquired artefacts. Browne's other main collecting interest was with oriental objects which echoed stage roles he played in musical theatre productions. Browne's oriental and Aboriginal objects are complementary in illustrating the way respective cultures were represented in early-mid twentieth century domestic collections. The cultural items he acquired and their incorporation into the domestic sphere of the Australian home provide insights into the way Australians of that period represented the colonised world. These objects are strongly augmented by objects related to his theatrical make-up business which capture the role of cosmetics in transforming identity in theatrical performances by himself and others. The accompanying photographic and paper-based materials document his life in the theatre, his relationship with other theatrical identities and his work at the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

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