State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 33 April 1984


Antoine Fauchery, 1823–1861 Photographer and Journalist Par Excellence

The La Trobe Library is fortunate to list among its holdings a rare album of photographs ascribed to the partnership of Antoine Fauchery and Richard Daintree. It was published in May, 1983 by Currey O'Neil Ross, on behalf of the Library Council of Victoria, as Sun pictures of Victoria. While the life of the geologist Richard Daintree has been well-documented,1 relatively little is known of the background of his partner, Antoine Fauchery.
Antoine Julien Nicolas Fauchery was born in Paris on 15 November, 1823, the son of Julien Fauchery, a merchant, and his wife, Sophie Gilberte Soré. He was baptised at the Church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois on 18 November, 18232. In his early years, Fauchery tried his hand successively at architecture and painting, finally being persuaded to test his talents as a writer by the poet Théodore de Banville, whom he met by chance in a café in 1844. His new-found friend introduced him into the Bohemian circle which included such writers as Henry Mürger, Champfleury, Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval and Theódore Barrière, all of whom began their literary careers by contributing to the popular journal, Le Corsaire-Satan. It was while he was contributing articles to Le Corsaire-Satan that Fauchery first met a man who was to have a profound influence on his future, the great photographer Nadar.
In 1848, Nadar decided to join a band of idealists, mostly French and émigré Poles, who were about to leave France to liberate Poland. He set out on 30 March in company with his younger brother, Adrien, and his friend Fauchery. They had only reached Strasbourg when the tragi-comedy began, since they were completely without funds. It was not long before the authorities gave orders for their repatriation, and by 1 June they were back in Paris. De Banville describes their reunion:
“One evening, among others, at the Café de Buci, we were talking for the thousandth time, and still with the same feeling of anguish, when suddenly, like a very thunderbolt, we saw and felt, falling into our arms with tears, embracing us like brothers, not Fauchery and Nadar, but, as their passports said, Nadarski and Faucheriski…”3
Fauchery was immortalised in Henry Mürger's Scènes de la vie de Bohème on which the opera La Bohème is based, since, according to De Banville, Mürger had used him as a model for the character of the painter, Marcel. During the next four years, Fauchery wrote a number of pamphlets, serials and short plays for publication in the journals Le Corsaire, Journal pour rire, Dix Décembre and L'Evénement, including a biography of the Archbishop of Paris, Denis-Auguste Affre, who was martyred at the barricades in 1848.
On 23 July, 1852, Fauchery once again responded to the call of adventure and, in the company of one Louise Fouchery4, sailed from London on board the Emily bound for
Port Phillip, where he hoped to make his fortune on the Victorian goldfields. Fauchery spent nearly four years in Australia on this occasion, recounting the events of the long journey to Australia and the shock of his first view of the embryonic city of Melbourne, where everything differed from his expectations, in Lettres d'un mineur en Australie, which were serialised in fifteen instalments in the Paris newspaper Le Moniteur universel from 9 January to 8 February 1857.
He spent little time in Melbourne before setting out for the Ballarat goldfields where he thought that there was more danger in being injured by the firearms of the miners than by those of bushrangers, and that for most, nothing but heartbreaking disappointments were to be encountered at the bottom of a mine. Concerning the lust for gold, he wrote: “The mine! that is the one centre of attraction, the goal of all hopes, the dreamland where the sun rises! … It's the gold-fever; the fever for pure gold … driving all those who are stricken with it to throw up suddenly the most lucrative positions to run away and look for the uncertain.”5
On his return to Melbourne in 1854, after two years absence at the diggings, Fauchery reflected on the social changes he observed in the developing city: “I found Melbourne modified, practically transformed. Canvas Town and the bazaar on the banks of the Yara-Yara [sic] no longer existed. The government had replaced the canvas city with vast, spacious board huts for the use of newcomers with no resources. Philanthropic establishments such as pawn-brokers and auction rooms, in great numbers and usually kept by Jews, took under their roof the new and secondhand merchandise formerly displayed in the open. The town had developed, the shops had grown bigger, the takings in the hotels and public houses had increased tenfold. Two theatres, elegantly constructed, one for dramas, the other for equestrian feats, had replaced the old circus, that modest tent in which I had heard the Ethiopian harmonists from the Gaîté theatre delighting the colonial audience. In the streets, the blue and red shirts, the muddy trousers and the big gendarme-boots had become rare, and the consideration once accorded to this costume now seemed to be given entirely to black coats and white collars. The miners themselves, coming down from the mines, hastened instinctively and unanimously to shed the dusty livery of labour, to rank as citizens by putting on the garb of the regular gentleman.”6
Fauchery had not had great success on the goldfields, returning to Melbourne with only £60 in his pocket, and he saw his future in the Café Estaminet Français, which he opened at 76 Little Bourke Street East as a place of retreat for non-British emigrants who “lacked any sort of social milieu and sought in vain a little corner where they could sit in comfort”.7 He rapidly spent money on the essentials for the cafe — a French billiard table, a coffee pot and some glasses and plates — and opened for business. Despite his prospectuses advertising “BILLARDS, SOFAS, LUNCHES, COLD SUPPERS, followed by the famous traditional phrase: You can play pool! [which] produced on the spot a profound impression”,8 the venture was not a success, and Fauchery returned to the diggings, this time to the Jim Crow goldfield, near Daylesford, to try his luck not as a miner but as a storekeeper. Once again he failed, and left Daylesford after six months in business. He returned to Melbourne on foot, recording in his letters his sensitive impressions of the scenery, the tribes of Aborigines and the squatters he encountered.
Fauchery sailed from Melbourne on 5 March, 1856, for London on board the Roxburgh Castle. While at sea, he missed the successful staging at the Vaudeville Theatre in Paris of the comedy Calino which he had written in collaboration with Théodore Barrière. In 1857, while Fauchery was in Paris, the publishers Poulet Malassis et de Broise — the publishers of Baudelaire's work Les fleurs du mal — had the foresight to collect his Lettres d'un mineur en Australie as serialised in Le Moniteur universel, and then issue them as a single volume. (It was not until 1965 that the work was translated into English by Professor A. R. Chisholm and published in Melbourne by Georgian House as Letters from a miner in Australia). While in Paris, Fauchery married Louise-Joséphine Gatineau on 15 January, 1857 at the Church of St. Pierre de Montmartre, in the presence of his friend Dr. Gérard Piogey, to whom he had dedicated the collected edition of his Lettres. His wife was almost certainly the
lady who travelled to Australia with him as Louise Fouchery in 1852.
Fauchery left France and Europe forever when he sailed from London on 20 July, 1857, on board the Sydenham. Equipped with official governmental accreditation and funds to enable him to travel further afield, his aim was to send home his written impressions and photographic records of various monuments and interesting sights in Australia, India and China. On arrival in Melbourne in November, 1857 he established himself as a photographer at 132 Collins Street East. James Smith, the prominent Melbourne journalist, records in his Recollections of an octogenarian a vivid contemporary portrait of Fauchery as he was in 1857: "In a small four-roomed cottage, standing a little back from the south side of Collins-street East, on the block of land now covered by the Austral Buildings, I found a French gentleman domiciled as a photographer, who, accompanied by his wife, was cheerfully reconciling himself to the discomforts of colonial life at that time, and exhibiting a vivacity and buoyancy of spirits all the more remarkable as he had occupied a prominent position in Paris as a man of letters. This was M. Antoine Fauchery … “9
Early in 1858, Fauchery lodged a series of four advertisements in the Illustrated Melbourne news, advertising for sale photographs he had brought with him from Paris and hoping to make his new profession of photographer known to interested Melburnians: Mr. A. Fauchery, just returned from Paris, begs to inform his friends and the public that he has brought with him a splendid collection of PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAITS AND ENGRAVINGS, executed by himself during his sojourn there, and for which he solicits their early inspection at his rooms, No. 132 Collins-street east. Mr. A. F. is ready to take portraits, Landscapes, and Views of Public Buildings or Private Residences, in large sizes, by quite a new process; and also to operate the reproductions of Portraits, Engravings, or Pictures into as many copies as desired. Likenesses taken after death.”10 The fact that Fauchery was so successful as a photographer in Melbourne, as reflected in his success at the Victoria Industrial Society's Eighth Annual Exhibition of Manufactures, Produce, Machinery and Fine Arts,11 implies that he had learned much from the talented and successful Nadar during his recent visit to Paris, and it was early in 1858 that the professional collaboration between Fauchery and Richard Daintree began.
Little is known of the circumstances surrounding the association of Fauchery and Daintree, but each brought different qualities to the partnership — Daintree his knowledge of scientific methods and interest in geological subjects, and Fauchery his skills acquired from Nadar and his knowledge of the art world. Together they planned to produce a series of photographs in ten monthly instalments, consisting of views representing life in Victoria at the time. As "Sun Pictures of Victoria”, the “first monthly part” was favourably reviewed in the Melbourne Argus: "Under this title Messrs, A. Fauchery and R. Daintree have just published the first monthly part of a work which it is proposed to extend to ten numbers, and which is to comprise fifty large photographs, in illustration of our colonial celebrities, our landscape and marine scenery, and our private and public architecture.”12 While Fauchery and Daintree appear to have produced multiple copies of photographs for sale, only three sets of their joint work are known to exist today: one in the La Trobe Collection, State Library of Victoria, and two slightly different sets in the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
Their partnership came to an end sometime before 21 February, 1859, when Fauchery left Melbourne for Manila. There is little further evidence of Fauchery's activities in Melbourne other than his presence at the deathbed of his friend, the first French Consul, Comte Lionel Moreton de Chabrillan, husband of the actress, author and notorious courtesan Celéste Mogador.13
Few details are known of the way in which Fauchery occupied his time in the Philippines. It is not known if he took any photographs during his sojourn there and, certainly, the whereabouts today of any such studies is unknown. Since records of his activity there are so scant, there is some speculation14 that Fauchery was at this time a spy for the French Government during a period of considerable unrest in the history of the Philippines and in an era when French expansionist activity was at a peak.
Fauchery had requested further funds from the French Minister of Public Instruction and Religion to make possible a visit to Peking, and a grant was sent to him at the Embassy in Manila on the understanding that he would record, both in writing and photographically, “the unusual countryside, bizarre monuments, and absurd shapes”15 he saw. He next appears in Shanghai on 30 June, 1860, when as official Correspondent attached to the French forces, he sent the first of his nine Lettres de Chine to Le Moniteur universel.16 His account of the second Opium War was serialized in this newspaper from 12 October to 29 December, 1860.17
The photographs which Fauchery almost certainly took in China have totally disappeared. There is no record of them in any government department in Paris, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Archives Nationales, Société Géographique, or the Société des Gens de Lettres. Research at the National Library of China and at the French Embassy in Peking has, unfortunately, shed no light on their whereabouts.18
Fauchery embarked at Shanghai in the company of his Commanding Officer in China, Colonel Dupin, for the voyage to Japan of the P & O steamer Cadiz on 12 January, 1861. The next time he has positively been traced is on the date of his death, 27 April, 1861. The journal of a French priest living in Yokohama at that time records Fauchery's death and burial as follows: "27 April. — A Frenchman, named Antoine Faucherie [sic], recently attached to the French Legation, died in the hospital, after having refused the consolations of the church.”19 Apart from Fauchery's own report of the chill to which he succumbed, after having spent all night in the pouring rain reporting the battle of 21 August, 1860, at Sin Ho, in China, he is not known to have suffered from another illness. Certainly dysentery was responsible for many deaths in Asia during the last century, and it is quite probable that this complaint was the cause of Fauchery's death; however, this cannot be proved.
Thorough research on Fauchery in Japan has been carried out by Mr. Harold S. Williams, an expatriate Australian living in Kobe and the author of a number of books on foreign settlements in Japan and of papers presented to the Asiatic Society of Japan in Tokyo. According to his sources, Fauchery was buried in the Foreign Cemetery, now known as the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery, for there was no other burial ground available at that time in Yokohama for the interment of foreigners. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to locate Fauchery's grave in the Cemetery because the tombstones of that period were all demolished in the great earthquake there in 1923. It was at this time that the records of the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery were also lost.20 Under the circumstances of his death, Fauchery's grave was probably marked by a simple peg, rather than with a proper tombstone.
It is reasonable to suppose that Fauchery would have taken photographs during his three months’ sojourn in Japan. His expertise in the art of photography, as evidenced by his “Sun Pictures of Victoria”, and the additional practice he undoubtedly had in China, make it highly likely that he continued to practise as a photographer in Japan, which had so very recently (1858) been opened to the West. To the best of Mr. Williams’ knowledge, there are no photographs acknowledged to Fauchery in any of the Japanese archives. At a time when photographers in Japan, as in many other countries, were doing a brisk business in providing Europeans with visual souvenirs of these very different worlds, it may have been the case that other photographers acquired Fauchery's work after his death and sold the photographs as their own.
Although Fauchery lived only thirty-eight years, a surprisingly substantial legacy of his work remains. The photographs he took in Victoria are especially remarkable, not only for their high quality, but also because they were created so early in the history of photography. As a journalist, Fauchery left a valuable record of day to day life on Victoria's goldfields and his account of the second Opium War in China, gathered in often difficult conditions, ranks favourably with those of contemporary historians and subsequent researchers.


G. C. Bolton. Richard Daintree. Brisbane, Jacaranda, 1965.


The Registers of the Paris of the Madeleine list the marriage of Julien and Sophie Fauchery on 31 October, 1818, and the birth of their daughter Barbe Julie Sophie on 30 July, 1820.


Antoine Fauchery. Letters from a miner in Australia. Trans. by A. R. Chisholm. Melbourne, Georgian House, 1965, p.xviii.


Shipping List for the Emily, July 1852 voyage. Public Record Office of Victoria.


Fauchery, op. cit., p.33.


Ibid. pp.83–84.


Ibid. p.85.


Ibid. pp.86–87.


James Smith, “Recollections of an Octogenarian, No.V. Bygone Celebrities”, The Leader, 27 July, 1907, p.43.


Illustrated Melbourne news, 16 January, 1858, p.38; 23 January, 1858, p.50; 30 January, 1858, p.60; 6 February, 1858, p.67.


Victoria Industrial Society, Catalogue of the Eighth Annual Exhibition of Manufactures, Produce, Machinery and Fine Arts. Melbourne, Shaw, Harnett and Co., 1858.


[James Smith?] Argus, 13 August, 1858, p.6. Attributed to James Smith by Dr. Lurline Stuart whose doctoral thesis is on this prominent Melbourne literary critic.


A.D.B., vol.3, 1851–1890, p.373.


This theory, currently held by some scholars in Manila, was discovered by Australian researcher Lillian Lewis.


Letter from Antoine Fauchery in Melbourne to the Minister of Public Instruction and Religion in Paris, 20 February, 1859. Dossier No. F172961, Archives Nationale, Paris. Trans. by Dianne Reilly.


Le Moniteur universel, 12, 13, 16, 17 October; 7 November; 16, 18, 28, 29 December, 1860. Translated as “Letters from China” by Dianne Reilly as part of an M.A. Thesis submitted to Monash University in March 1984.


Lettres de Chine, No. 1, 30 June, 1860.


Research carried out in Peking in December 1983 by Lillian Lewis.


Harold S. Williams, ‘Shades of the past: The mystery of Antoine Fauchery's photographs’, Mainichi daily news, 2 October, 1972.


Harold S. Williams, ‘The mysteries of Antoine Fauchery’, paper read to Asiatic Society of Japan at Tokyo, 17 January, 1972.