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A blast from the past

Updated: Jun 23

Over the past few months I've been working on a side project: researching the history of my period home. Corio Bay Villa, which was built in 1890 by Charles Emberson. We are currently undergoing a major renovation and I am interested in preserving its history, so I have set up a new website dedicated to the project at: Corio Bay Villa.

I was excited to discover that three other painters have previously lived in my home: John Crocker in the 1930s, Dennis Farney in the 1950s & 1960s, and Michel Canetti in the late 1990s. You can read all about them below.

John Crocker

Image: Painting by J. Crocker, "Natural Bush" - Watercolour on paper (undated), courtesy of Victorian Collections.

John was a watercolourist and landscape artist who painted in Australia from around 1880 to 1940. He was born in Cornwall, England, and immigrated to New Zealand with his family as a child. John had a very long and interesting life spanning three counties and three wives. John’s surviving paintings include references to places in New Zealand, Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and the Scottish Highlands, suggesting that he visited many locations. His granddaughter Leanne confirmed that he was well-travelled and was particularly fond of New Zealand, where he spent his youth.

John and his third wife Clara Crocker lived at Corio Bay Villa in Australia for a decade from 1929 to 1939, when it was operating as a small-hold farm. They lived there with five of their children: Cyril, Ivan, Francis, Beatrix and Phyllis. Their eldest son's wife and child may have also lived with them for a time.

John preferred to paint rather than get his hands dirty on the property and left the running of the house and property to his wife and children. During the Great Depression, the Crockers gave cream and milk to their neighbours to help them during difficult times.

You can read more about John Crocker's life here:

Dennis Farney

Image: Painting by Dennis Farney "Still life" - Oil on canvas (undated), courtesy of Invaluable art sales website.

Dennis grew up at Corio Bay Villa during the 1950s and 1960s with his siblings, mother and step-father. By this time the area around Corio Bay Villa had become built up with residential housing. Dennis witnessed many changes in the area, including the laying down of the bitumen road and the connection of the street to main sewage.

Dennis moved out of Corio Bay Villa at around twenty years of age when his parents sold the property and downsized. While Dennis always had an interest in art, he was not training or working as an artist whilst he living at Corio Bay Villa. It was many years later that Dennis finally took the plunge and gave up his day job to focus on his artistic career. Dennis mainly paints still lifes and landscapes in oils. Dennis now resides in regional Victoria with his wife and his dogs.

Michel Canetti

Michel is a contemporary fashion illustrator and figurative painter. He immigrated from Paris in the 1990s and has had illustrators featured in advertisements for luxury brands such as Vogue, Vogue, Chanel, Estee Lauder and L'Oreal.

Michel bought Corio Bay Villa in 1997 and lived there with his son until 2005, where he worked out of this home studio. By this stage, a large timber extension had been added to the rear of the house.

In addition to being an artist, Michel is an admirer of period homes and a collector of antique furniture. After leaving Corio Bay Villa, Michel bought another, larger Victorian home in a nearby area.

Image: Illustration by Michel Canetti courtesy of the artist.



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