painter and teacher, was born in Holland on 4 August 1820, daughter of Louis Emile Matthieu, a captain in the Belgian Army, and Catherine, née van de Winkle. Her father was of French Huguenot descent and Julie was educated in Paris. She married Lewis Vieusseux, an English civil engineer, architect and surveyor also of Huguenot ancestry, on 8 March 1849 at Salford, near Manchester in Lancashire where he seems to have been working as a railway surveyor. Early in 1852 the couple came to Melbourne in the Fortitude , with their two infant sons and Julie’s younger sister, Marie Matthieu. They rented accommodation in Kyte’s Buildings, Princes Street, Collingwood and Julie worked as a portrait painter, inviting potential clients 'to visit her studio, where several beautiful Oil Paintings, also specimens of her Likenesses may be viewed daily. Portraits taken in Oils, Chalks and Pencils, after the most approved styles’. Lewis apparently went to the goldfields.

At the third Victorian Industrial Society Exhibition held in December 1852 Vieusseux received the highest possible awards for her artistic skill. Her study of a girl ('French school’) and her copy of the Virgin Mary after Raphael were together awarded a gold medal, while her oil painting of a minstrel ('German school’) – 'a performance of very great merit’, said the judges – received another. In April 1853 she advertised an exhibition of her paintings at the Melbourne Mechanics Institute, informing the public that her 'much admired collection of Oil Paintings’ could be viewed there daily before their dispersal through an art union to be drawn on 7 May. Circulars about the paintings were available (unlocated).

That year Lewis set up an architectural practice in Swanston Street in partnership with Lloyd Tayler but it did not last. Julie, on the other hand, appears to have had considerable success with her painting. In November 1853 she advertised 'Drawing and Painting Classes for Young Ladies, who can enjoy the advantage of French Conversation’. At the 1856 Victorian Exhibition she showed a pencil drawing of flowers. The following year she showed an oil study of a head with the Victorian Society of Fine Arts, which the critic “Christopher Sly” ( James Neild ) thought 'an admirable performance and proves this lady to be a thorough artist’. James Smith in the Argus , however, patronisingly noted of the same painting: 'If this Lady succeeds as well in original compositions as she has done in this study ( copied apparently from a French Master), she ought to cultivate the pursuit of art’. (It was probably not a copy; Vieusseux liked to show that she could work in both a French and a German manner and identified which was which for colonial viewers.)

Lewis’s partnership with Tayler was dissolved by 1855 and he appears to have had little success as an independent architect so in July 1857 he and Julie opened an expensive élite ladies’ college at 23 and 25 Victoria Parade, Collingwood – their own home, plus the house next door. The published names of 14 referees for the school include Georgiana McCrae , Dr Godfrey Howitt (uncle of Alfred William Howitt ), Matilda Charlotte (the wife of geologist Alfred Selwyn), Mary (the wife of Sir Archibald Michie) and Judge Robert Pohlman. Another referee was Maria Elizabeth, wife of Dr Arthur O’Mullane of Bourke Street West. The mixed French and German qualities of an unsigned and undated oil portrait of Mrs O’Mullane and her four children (c.1855, NGV) have led to it being attributed both to the French-trained William Strutt and the German Ludwig Becker , although it is here attributed to Vieusseux on stylistic as well as associational grounds.

Lewis and Julie Vieusseux taught English, French and German language and literature classes at their school. Julie also taught drawing, painting and craft and ran the boarding school. Eliza a’Beckett (elder sister of the painter Emma Minnie Boyd ) attended the painting classes and later wrote that Madame Vieusseux was

“an expert in soft crayon work, mainly heads of girls of varying types of beauty. I sketched, or tried to sketch, the outlines, then “Madame” would seat herself in my place, correct what was wrong, spend a good half hour with black chalk and “stumps” to soften it down, and I would see a charming picture emerging from my crude beginning. I brought the finished specimens home and they were duly framed and admired, but no more my work than the framer’s.”

So successful was the Ladies’ College that it moved into larger premises in May 1860, a terrace house on the corner of Clarendon and Albert Streets in East Melbourne overlooking the Fitzroy Gardens. Visiting masters included von Guérard , whose portrait Vieusseux painted (1864, oil on canvas, German Club of Victoria) in her competent, detailed style, both his face and those of the O’Mullane family being suggestive of a miniaturist’s precision. The school moved to Brighton in 1868 72 while a new building was erected on the Clarendon Street site.

Two of Vieusseux’s chalk drawings of female heads were shown at the 1866 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition. The last time she is known to have exhibited publicly is in 1875, when she showed an oil painting titled The Minstrel with the Victorian Academy of Arts. It may have been a repeat view of her 1852 painting. If so, it was again greatly admired, the Sydney Mail 's correspondent calling this 'benevolent, careworn, weatherbeaten, intellectual face’ a 'poem on canvas’ that aptly visualised Sir Walter Scott’s word picture of the 'Last Minstrel’.

The Vieusseux’s second son, Stephen, died in November 1852 and in 1858 their eldest son, Lewis, aged eight, was lost in the bush. After all hopes of finding him alive had vanished, Julie painted his portrait using her sole living child, Edward, as a model. She died on 11 March 1878 and was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery.

Staff Writer
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