Jacob Audet

The Sennotype situation

The Design and Art Australia Online website notes that “In the Maitland Ensign of 20 January 1866 Audet claimed (inaccurately) that he was 'the only sennotype artist in the colony.” [1]

But was this claim inaccurate?

Photographer Charles Wilson brought the sennotype process to Australia in 1862, claiming to own the Australian patent for the sennotype. [2]

Audet’s sennotype practice is recorded in the Maitland Mercury as follows :

Audet’s advertising introduces the sennotype in December 1863 as a ‘new era in art’ and that he has paid a large premium for learning the art of sennotypes: [3]

J.AUDET takes this method of informing the public of Maitland and its suburbs that, having paid a large premium for learning the art of SENNOTYPES, he can produce a PICTURE for softness, delicacy, beauty, and durability surpassing the most elaborately executed ivory painting, whilst its fidelity and stereoscopic effect renders the picture more charming and life- like than any other style. The method of colouring is entirely new, and of such durability that years of exposure to the direct rays of the sun will not have the slightest effect upon them.
J. AUDET, Sennotype and Photographic Artist             

In 1864 a portrait of local magistrate Edward Denny Day is reported with emphasis on the quality of the sennotype image.[4]   

A Specimen of Local Art- Visitors to Maitland who have even a partial recollection of the countenance of our respected police magistrate, Mr. Day, will be struck by the life-like portrait of that gentleman now exhibited by Mr. J. Audet. The likeness is an admirable specimen of the new branch of photography styled "Sennotype," which combines the sharpness and effects of light and shade peculiar to well-executed photographs on paper with the delicacy and softness of colouring that distinguish miniatures painted on ivory. The old fashioned collodiotypes when placed side by side with portraits in sennotype are like misty shadows contrasting with tangible substance.

Advertising in 1865, Audet refers to himself as a photographic and sennotype artist and it is in this same edition of the Maitland Mercury that he refers to sennotype “which I alone in the whole colony practice.”                

MR. LIDDELL, notwithstanding my acceptance of his challenge, has not made any advances in the matter ; and, as the cause may be that I included SENNOTYPE (which I alone in the whole colony practice) in the enumeration of styles of portraiture to be produced, I am willing to withdraw that highest branch of the art, and to give him the ODDS OF THREE TO ONE in competing with THE BEST PICTURE in ivorytype, vignettes, cartes-de-visite, or glass portraits.

JACOB AUDET.                                                        West Maitland, Feb. 24,1865

Audet’s claim that he is the sole practitioner of the sennotype is problematic, although with disputes and confusion surrounding the patent and licensing of the process, not all sennotype practitioners may have held legal rights. [5]

After paying a ‘large premium for learning the art of sennotypes’ as advertised in December of 1863 is it possible that two years later he is the only practitioner in the colony (New South Wales) since “Only half a dozen photography studios offered sennotypes and not always with a licence from Wilson, who found like previous patent holders, that a good deal of time was spent defending his rights.” [6]

A search of New South Wales newspapers (available online via Trove) between 1864 and 1870 yields Audet as the only name in relation to sennotypes – perhaps he was sole practitioner in the Colony of New South Wales at that time. WhileAudet claimed he ‘paid a large premium for learning the art of sennotypes’ this does not necessarily mean he was or was not licenced by Charles Wilson.

On 12 April 1864, Alfred Bock’s photographic establishment in Hobart also advertises with the phrase ‘a new era in the art of photography’ with sennotypes. The certification of Charles Wilson was printed in full, cautioning the public against the “Fraudulent and Piratical Assumption, by unprincipled persons, of the name of SENNOTYPE…”

Although the certification of Charles Wilson was not presented in the newspaper by Audet, this does not preclude him as a licenced sennotype practitioner.  

When Audet’s business is offered for sale in December 1865, in the Empire newspaper (Sydney), the sale includes “…a Gallery lighted from both sides, Rosso's Camera and Lenses, 18 x 12 and 10 x. 12; Carte-de-visite, Stereoscopic and Diamond Cameo, Cameras 3000 negatives, &c., &c. The art, of Sennotype will be imparted to the purchaser.” [7]

After relocating to Sydney, Audet continues to promote his business as a photographic and sennotype studio. [8]

[6] http://www.photo-web.com.au/ShadesofLight/05-consolidation.htm

[7]  Empire, 16 December 1865

[8]  Illustrated Sydney news, 6 January 1877