Property from the Collection of the Late Harry & Masha Flicker

An architect-designed modernist 1960s house in a quiet Toorak cul-de-sac gives little hint as to the unusual trove that lies within. Upon entry, an exotic oriental world unfolds, the singular stylistic vision of Harry and Masha Flicker. Born in Bratislava (now the capital of Slovakia), Harry and Masha grew up in the same circle, their respective grandfathers worked in business together and there was a warm friendship between the two families.

Harry & Masha Flicker

Between 1939-1941, the dislocation and threat of German occupied Europe forced movement of Jewish populations further east. Harry and Masha’s families were sent first to collective farms in Kazakhstan in Central Asia and then to Siberian labour camps. Post-war, Harry’s family secured passage to Australia, while Masha’s family sought sanctuary and a new life in Israel. The geographical separation did not diminish the great bond between the families. About eight years after the teenage Masha arrived in Israel, Harry visited, returning to Australia with Masha as his bride-to-be, aged about 22. A new country, new language, and new customs, while at times challenging, didn’t deter Masha as she reconnected with extended family, friends and acquaintances who bonded through their wartime experiences.

Businessman, Harry, purchased the Toorak family home in 1966, and it proved sufficiently large to accommodate a family of two boys, while leaving two rooms vacant and unused for several years. Things were soon to change.

Lot 210, An impressive hardwood and Shibayama style inlaid gold lacquer Shodana, Meiji period, $7,000-9,000

In 1970 Masha and Harry attended Expo in Osaka, Japan. Despite the forward-looking theme of the expo, Progress and Harmony for Mankind, it was old Japan that captivated the Flickers. Women in traditional kimono still graced the local streets as they went about daily life, and Masha, especially, was captivated.

Upon returning to Melbourne, she set about transforming the unused rooms into exotic galleries for her new-found interest. The rooms were extended, a talented local joiner created oriental-inspired fitted cabinetry and suitable furnishings. The walls, windows and floors were suitably adorned with papers and tatami mats to create a moody interior. Oriental inspired stained glass windows were commissioned.

Over the course of the next two decades Masha collected woodblock prints, bronzes, carvings, ivories, cloisonné, satsuma and other porcelains – her interest broadening to also embrace Chinese decorative arts and furnishings. The exotic rooms were not merely showpieces. They were the core of family life, dinners and entertainment, and items were used and enjoyed.

Masha developed a reputation as a willing buyer amongst Melbourne dealers, one of whom visited the house twice a week with suitable objects, happy to relieve Mrs Flicker of her housekeeping money, a practice that was both meticulously recorded in a Spirax cash book and warmly encouraged by the adoring Harry.

The love of the orient extended also to the exterior with both Masha and Harry becoming afficionados and collectors of bonsai of which they had over fifty highly regarded specimens. The back yard, too, was transformed into a Japanese garden with bamboos, maples and conifers set within gravel paths, water features and a rockery.

in situ at the flicker residence

Harry Flicker worked in business from 1959-1974 helping to build Worsted Finishers Australia Pty Ltd. He acquired the business in 1975 renaming it, Flickers Dye House, which he grew and diversified to become a noted supplier of world-class services and products to the textile and other industries. Flicker’s Pty Ltd continues today and remains family owned.

Harry’s beloved Masha died in 1992 and Harry passed away in 2021. This is their collection (lots 201–406).

View the catalogue.