Ballets Russes drawings find a permanent home in Australia

I recently wrote about a group of Ballets Russes’ drawings by Cecil Waller that were auctioned in Sydney in May 2012.

At the time I was unsure of the buyer, but can now report that they’ve found a permanent home in Australia.

And it’s not just any old home but one closely linked to J C Williamson, founded by James Cassius Williamson. Known as “the Firm”, the company was the promoter and presenter of Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes’ tours to Australia from 1936 to 1940.

The drawings were bought at auction by the Tallis Foundation, a charitable trust named after Sir George Tallis who worked for JCW for about 50 years.

Born in Ireland, Tallis sailed to Melbourne in 1886 where he first worked as an office boy for the firm.

He soon climbed the management ladder and by 1896 owned a quarter share in the company.

Tallis’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes: “When Williamson gradually relinquished his active role, Tallis took over the Firm”.

In 1916, Tallis bought Beleura, a property built in 1863 on the Mornington Peninsula, and once described as “the finest mansion in the colony” of Victoria.

Beleura became the Tallis family’s summer house for many years and was eventually inherited by George Tallis’s son, John.

John Tallis died in 1996 leaving Beleura to the people of Victoria. He asked that it become a house museum.

The property, open to the public with guided tours available on various days throughout the year, now houses a collection of a collection of Tallis family furniture, fine and decorative arts, furnishings, books, photographs, theatrical memorabilia and general household paraphernalia.

Cecil Waller’s Ballets Russes’ drawings will join the collection.

The man behind the purchase is Anthony Knight, a director of the Tallis Foundation and chief consultant to the Beleura museum.

So, although the drawings of the Ballets Russes’ dancers were done in England, in a way they have come home and are going to stay in the country that fell head over heels with the dancers all those decades ago.


  1. Marilyn Ashmead Craig
    Posted June 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    On hearing this news Cecil Waller’s daughter Elizabeth told me, “I am absolutely thrilled that my father’s Ballets Russes drawings are going to a right and proper place which has such a strong connection to this dance company.”

  2. valerie
    Posted June 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn and Elizabeth, I’m so happy we’ve been able to connect in this way and I know Anthony Knight would be very happy to hear from you.

  3. Posted July 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    We’ve enjoyed connecting too. Cecil was an early art mentor to his nephew John Craxton RA. The latter’s biographer and trustee wants to hold a joint exhibition of their work. So Cecil’s star may be about to rise! Perhaps in the future it won’t be as difficult to research his life, as per your original post on the drawings…

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Tatiana Riabouchinska, 1933, drawing by Cecil Waller

Tatiana Riabouchinska, 1933, drawing by Cecil Waller

Sir George Tallis, National Library of Australia

Sir George Tallis, National Library of Australia