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Dechaineux, Florent Vincent Emile Lucien (1869–1957)

by A. E. Haller-Griffits

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Florent Vincent Emile Lucien Dechaineux (1869-1957), art educationist, was born on 15 July 1869 at Liège, Belgium, son of François Prosper Dechaineux and his wife Josephine Leopold Leontine, née Houet. He came to Australia in 1884 with his parents who had invested in a worthless citrus orchard and a salted gold-mine. In 1885-88 Dechaineux studied art at Sydney Technical College as an evening student under Lucien Henry, working as a house-painter by day. He then studied with Julian Ashton at the Art Society of New South Wales while he practised architecture, architectural sculpture and decoration, finally succeeding Henry as lecturer in design at Sydney's Technical College. On 23 December 1891 at St John's Church of England, Darlinghurst, he married a Tasmanian, Isabella (Ella) Jane Briant (d.1908), and in 1895 was appointed instructor in technical art at Launceston Technical School, Tasmania. He became art master of the Education Department of Tasmania and in 1907 principal and lecturer in art at Hobart Technical School.

For the next thirty-three years Dechaineux continued in his dual capacity at the school, which when he retired in December 1939 had more than 1000 students. He also sat on the Architects' Registration Board and acted as examiner in drawing for the University of Tasmania. Dechaineux came to Tasmania at a time when interest in cultural matters was growing. The arrival of a dedicated artist with enthusiasm for instructing others could not fail to have major impact on art and culture generally. It was said that with him 'every day … was an inspiration; he was not an easy taskmaster; nothing second-rate was good enough; his credo was “always aim at the highest”'.

Dechaineux's principal interest was in watercolours but he was also a sculptor and etcher and was proficient in oils, a talent shared with his second wife Mary, née Giblin, whom he married on 21 December 1909 at Hobart, according to Baptist forms. He designed the stained-glass war memorial window in Holy Trinity Church, Hobart, the Town Hall great honour-roll carved by Ellen Nora Payne and, with his partner, the western extension of The Hutchins School. He and his wife were keen bushwalkers and organized large summer camping-parties for artists on the east coast; they also formed a book club for debating and reading. On his retirement he rented a large room in Collins Street where friends and young artists came to talk and pursue their work under his tutelage. He had been a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania from 1908.

Dechaineux died on 4 April 1957 at Hobart, survived by his wife, their son and daughter, and by a daughter of his previous marriage. He was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. Three of his paintings, including a portrait of his son Emile (1902-44) who, in command of H.M.A.S. Australia, was killed in action, hang in the Tasmanian Art Gallery. A portrait of Dechaineux by Jack Carington Smith, paid for by public subscription, also hangs in the gallery, and another by the same artist is in the Adelaide Art Gallery. The 1956 extension to the Hobart Technical College is named in Dechaineux's honour.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Bowden and M. Crawford (eds), The Story of Trinity (Hob, 1933)
  • J. Cato, I Can Take It (Melb, 1947)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 30 Oct, 16 Dec 1939
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5 Apr 1957.

Citation details

A. E. Haller-Griffits, 'Dechaineux, Florent Vincent Emile Lucien (1869–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dechaineux-florent-vincent-emile-lucien-5938/text10123, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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