The Age | Artist Danila Vassilieff was selling his house. There was just one catch

Danila Vassilieff painting a portrait of wife Elizabeth at Stonygrad, Warrandyte, 1947. CREDIT:PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWN, IMAGE COURTESY HEIDE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART ARCHIVE.

When Elizabeth Hamill visited Stonygrad in Warrandyte in 1947, the owner agreed to sell the house on one condition: that he came with it.

Danila Vassilieff, a Russian emigre artist, had built the house by hand using rocks quarried from his property in the late 1930s. Hamill was beautiful, intelligent and wealthy. Vassilieff, a flamboyant and flirtatious modernist painter and soon-to-be sculptor, was known for capturing Melbourne street life in his gestural 1930s paintings. He was also destitute.

Hamill agreed, on the spot, to pay the requested £3500 and gave Vassilieff the deposit. On the receipt he wrote, in careful yet fluid cursive script, “Received £350 (cheque) from Mrs. Hamill as a deposit on the land and house, as it stands, with all household effects including any paintings and myself.”

It was dated February 5, 1947. They married on March 20. It was, for five years, as the wisdom goes, a breathtaking romance.

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