Along the beach road can be difficult and dangerous as the winds churn up the Bay. It's much safer to stay indoors and write another installment on "Melbourne our Home".
This weekend's blog is about Mentone Village. Well it's not really a village as such, not compared to those of France or Italy. Back in the late 1880s it was a village, a seaside resort but suburbia encroached and Mentone is now only 30 minutes from the CBD of Melbourne by car. In horse and cart days, it was probably a 1/2 day out of town. Most people took the steam powered train for a day at the beach.
Mentone Coffee Palace in the 1880s
Yesterday I drove into what is still called Mentone Village. The central shopping centre is highlighted by the Kilbreda College for young ladies. Initially built in 1887, it started life as the Mentone Coffee Palace. Such is the grandness of the building, it can be seen across the rooftops from many vantage points around the Village.
Mentone's now Kilbreda Ladies College
Kilbreda's tower stands proud above Mentone Village.
Just around from the now ladies school is a large car park for the shoppers where the main tower of Kilbreda can still be seen. Tucked in here is the public toilet block – not just a common old convenience but a work of art itself, covered in mosaic scenes. In the same area is the Mentone artist’s Society. Mentone has a rich history for art in the district.
The Mosaic toilet block showing Mentone Coffee Palace/Kilbreda Ladies College.
Tom Roberts and Charles Condor travelled to the bayside area in their pre-Heidelberg days to paint. These two were influencial in the Australian Impressionist movement.
In fact, Condor travelled to England and France to paint and met Toulouse Lautrec who painted his portrait. It hangs in Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia.
And the actual painting from 1888.
A mosiac version of Charles Condor's "Holiday at Mentone".
Condor’s painting “Holiday at Mentone” has been imortalised on both a postage stamp and just as importantly on our public convenience in the Mentone Village car park.
Wikipedia notes the following on Charles Condor……..
“Conder was a fun loving man who painted with an often humorous touch. While staying with Tom Roberts in his famous Grosvenor chambers studio, he painted A Holiday at Mentone (1888), which shows men and women at the beach relaxing while clothed from head to foot—the men in suits and hats; the ladies in long girdled dresses with boots and pretty hats. The man and woman at the front of the painting face away from each other, yet possibly are interested in one another and watching each other through the corner of their eye. The mood is one of simple elegance and with a relaxed feel, as in the background people are strolling along the beach into the distance. The composition of the painting has possibly been borrowed from a work by Whistler in which a bridge similarly transects the picture, as Conder among other painters such as Frederick McCubbin had been directly or indirectly influenced by Whistler.”
It’s amazing to wander around our village and discover these little pieces of important history and I wonder if the people walking out of the supermarket realize what a rich history Mentone Village has.