Friday, May 24, 2013

Local History ...

I've been doing some reading about local history, getting the historical context sorted in my mind before I launch into a new project that uses Buda as departure point.

Buda is an historical house and garden in Castlemaine that was owned by two generations of the Leviny family for nearly a hundred and twenty years (1863 -1981).   Ernest Leviny (1818-1905) was a talented Hungarian silversmith who came to Castlemaine (1853) via Paris and London.  He came, like so many others, following the discovery of gold and went on to establish a successful jewellery and watchmaking business.  Ernest's work can be seen in the National Gallery of Victoria and has inspired the Contemporary Australian Silver and Metalwork Award which has been hosted by Buda.

Ernest married Bertha Hudson, an English immigrant living in Tasmania. Their children were born and grew up at Buda in a privileged family environment surrounded by their father's interests in natural history and art.  Many of the children spent major portions of their lives at Buda, and the unmarried daughters were active in their creative pursuits.  Several of the Leviny daughters exhibited in the First exhibition of Woman's Work 1907, held at the Royal Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne.  Several of the Leviny children were also actively involved in the establishment and running of the Castlemaine Art Gallery.

My interest in particular is the 'making' element of the family.  Ernest was a talented, accomplished maker, who also had a keen interest in natural history and the garden.  He painted as a leisure activity in his later years, and designed structures at Buda.  The Leviny daughters lived through some progressive and exciting years for women.  They were free of financial constraints, and those that didn't marry were free to pursue their creative interests (as well as some paid work and travel).  Buda Historic House and Garden displays a massive range of objects and fittings made by various members of the family.

It is interesting that Buda, with its time capsule house, sensational gardens and relatively unpretentious history reflects the 'making' that happened there.  And as a community laden with 'makers', Castlemaine today seems to physically embrace Buda.  The house sits amongst the residential everydayness, surrounded by domestic goingson.  Amongst the community there is a strong thread of 'making'.  And from the community of Castlemaine there also comes a small army of volunteers that keep Buda open to a curious public.

For me, there is a plethora of story in the history of the family, a massive archive of belongings to be mined for still life subjects, and a garden that has continued to evolve.  Much potential to be explored!!


Above  -  An Autumnal afternoon through the Music Room window.

Immediately above  -  Detail of a sofa from the Music Room, thought to have been made in Europe and brought to Castlemaine by Ernest in 1853.

Information about the Leviny family from Buda and the Leviny Family, by Lauretta Ziles  2010.