Sunday, 15 February 2009

Edward Montague Treble (1869-1925) of Derby

The two postcard portraits featured in this post, which were a recent purchase, are typical of the style which became particular popular before, during and after the Great War (1914-1918).

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Apart from the use of the postcard format, which brought the price of studio portraits within reach of practically everyone, the pose is a complete contrast to those characteristic of a decade or two earlier. The stiff formally arranged family group, often in a symmetrical triangular, diamond, W or inverted-W pattern has been replaced by an asymmetrical distribution. However, the most striking difference in this style of portrait is that the subjects are smiling. Well, the children are; while their mother is perhaps trying, she doesn't seem to be able to put out of her mind the Victorian studio habits that she grew up with. The chintz-covered chaise longue is fairly typical of the Edwardian period between the turn of the century and the Great War.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The 1910s also saw a return to the spartan studio settings not seen for several decades. Here the subject is perched on a plaster bench left over from the excesses of the 1890s, but the remaining background has been stripped to the bare essentials - a plain floor and wall, probably purposely light in colour in order to bring out the detail in the girl's clothing, which might otherwise have appeared somewhat washed out. With a child of this age, the ball that she is holding is less likely to have been used to keep her from fidgetting, but more as a simple accessory.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The use of generic, mass-produced postcards enabled the studios to reduce the cost of production even further. Some of them would be stamped on the reverse with the the photographer's or studio's name, but a method used very commonly from the early 1900s until the 1930s was the blind stamp. This involved the embossing of text, an image or a logo, or a combination of these, onto the postcard without using ink or gilding. Although printed, embossed card mounts were produced by the same studios, they were able to offer these standard, stock-in-trade postcards very cheaply indeed.

Edward Montague Treble was born in Hastings, Sussex in 1859, the youngest son of artist & photographer Frederick Treble and Elizabeth Wyndham. His father at various times operated from premises in Nottingham, Yeovil, Salisbury, Hastings, London, Brighton and Norwich, and his older brother Charles Frederick Treble also became a photographer, with studios in London, Norwich and Great Yarmouth. E.M. Treble possibly trained with his father before working as a photographer's manager in Yardley, Worcestershire, and appears to have moved to Derby in around 1912, when he took over the studio of C.F. Dereské in East Street. He was in business at least until the mid- to late 1920s.


  1. Hello Brett,

    Congratulations! I have nominated you for the KreativBlogger Award. Go to for award guidelines.

    I acknowledge, respect, and enjoy your blog.

  2. Thank you, George. I'm grateful for your kindness. Regards, Brett


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