Gallery Sculpture Walk

 

Ever wondered how many sculptures are surrounding the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art? We have compiled our precinct Sculpture Walk highlighting the 10 fascinating artworks by leading Australian and international artists. The walk is a delightful way to explore the works at your leisure at any time.

Background

Even before the Queensland Art Gallery opened in its new permanent and purpose built home at South Bank in June 1982, the provision of artworks for public areas around the precinct was recognised as an integral part of the Queensland Cultural Centre. It was to be the first time that a major grouping of Australian sculptures were simultaneously commissioned to have a harmonious relationship with their surrounding environment.

From an original selection of nine possible locations, a final five locations were approved. In August 1983, artists throughout Australia were invited to register their interest with 69 responding, of those, 26 were asked to provide a more detailed proposal for their chosen locations and finally in April 1984 five artists were announced and the series was installed by May 1985.

Since the Gallery of Modern Art opened in 2006, public art has gradually been commissioned to surround the site, continuing the vision begun for the Queensland Art Gallery.

Queensland Art Gallery

  • Offshoot: A painted aluminium abstract by Clement Meadmore positioned at the entrance to the Queensland Art Gallery plaza.
  • Pelicans: Five cast bronzes by artists Leonard Shillam and Kathleen Shillam for the Queensland Art Gallery Water Mall, Melbourne Street forecourt.
  • Sisters: Two bronze figures by Ante Dabro, located on the Queensland Art Gallery’s Melbourne Street forecourt.
  • Leviathan Play: An abstract painted steel sculpture by Ron Robertson-Swann on the Queensland Art Gallery’s Melbourne Street forecourt.
  • Approaching Equilibrium: A large painted steel abstract by Anthony Pryor positioned on the upper Queensland Art Gallery plaza.

Clement Meadmore ‘Offshoot’

Clement Meadmore is known for his powerful welded sculptures, he used steel or aluminum to create his colossal outdoor sculptures. His works typically involve a rectangular form that dynamically twists and moves through space, exploring the expressive potential of geometry. Offshoot 1984 denies its physical reality, its simple but elegant volume freed from gravity.

Clement Meadmore, Australia 1929-2005 / Offshoot 1984 / Painted aluminium / 720 x 360 x 300cm / Collection: ArtsWorks Queensland / © Estate of Clement Meadmore / Photographed June 1985

Leonard and Kathleen Shillam ‘Pelicans’

Leonard Shillam and Kathleen Shillam created life-size statues to place. Their sculpture relates directly to their observation of nature, with the aim to go beyond reality, bonding the physical with the spiritual. Pelicans 1984 are a grouping of five pelicans which patiently sit in the Queensland Art Gallery’s Water Mall, the bronzes can be viewed from the Gallery’s Melbourne Street forecourt or more closely observed from within. Their creative endeavors relate directly to their observation of nature, the aim to go beyond reality, bonding the physical with the spiritual.

Leonard Shillam, Australia 1915–2005 and Kathleen Shillam, United Kingdom/Australia 1916–2002 / Pelicans 1984 / Cast bronze / Tallest bird 137cm high / Collection: ArtsWorks Queensland / © Estate of Leonard Shillam and Kathleen Shillam / Photographed June 1985

Study for Pelicans

Leonard Shillam, Australia 1915–2005 and Kathleen Shillam, United Kingdom/Australia 1916–2002 / Study for Pelicans 1984 / Ball-point pen on paper / Gift of the artists 1985 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Estate of Leonard Shillam and Kathleen Shillam

Ante Dabro ‘Sisters’

Figurative sculptor Ante Dabro’s life-size Sisters 1985 featuring two figures in quiet introspection adds to the tradition of the exploration of the possibilities in representing the human form. His works executed in bronze are based in European artistic traditions.

Ante Dabro, Croatia/Australia 1938-67 / Sisters 1985 / Cast bronze / Tallest figure 214cm high / Collection: ArtsWorks Queensland / © Estate of Ante Dabro / Photographed June 1985

Ron Robertson-Swann ‘Leviathan Play’

Ron Robertson-Swann is best known for his Cubist inspired abstract welded steel sculptures, often painted in bright colours. Robertson-Swann describes his sculpture as drawing in space and Leviathan Play 1985 balances volume to guide the viewer through and into the work.

Ron Robertson-Swann, b.1941 / Leviathan Play 1985 / Painted steel / 264cm high / Collection: ArtsWorks Queensland / © Ron Robertson-Swann / Photographed June 1985

Anthony Pryor ‘Approaching Equilibrium’

Anthony Prior described Approaching Equilibrium 1985 as exhibiting ‘the condition of equal balance between opposing forces… an equality of importance or effect among the various parts of a complex unity. The sculpture is like a loose drawing in space , however it’s actually in a state of physical balance, this is the process of approaching equilibrium’.

Anthony Pryor, Australia 1951-91 / Approaching Equilibrium 1985 / Painted steel / 820 x 765 x 915cm / Collection: ArtsWorks Queensland / © Estate of Anthony Pryor / Photographed June 1985

Gallery of Modern Art

Our second site the Gallery of Modern Art, located on Kurilpa Point — only 150 metres from the Queensland Art Gallery — opened in December 2006. The new building more than doubled the Queensland Art Gallery’s size, and since then, five artworks have been installed to enhance the existing public art.

  • The High/ Perpetual Xmas, No Abstractions: A 10-metre high Gold Coast‑type signage sculpture by Scott Redford erected at the forecourt to the Gallery of Modern Art.
  • Bodhi Tree Project: A living installation Bodhi tree with six marble seats that echo the heart-shaped leaves of the tree by Lee Mingwei is a focus for gathering and contemplation outside the GOMA Store. 
  • tow row: A cast bronze sculpture reimagination of a traditional fishing net used by Aboriginal people by Judy Watson at the entrance to the Gallery of Modern Art.
  • The World Turns: A bronze five-metre high elephant and a nonchalant kuril by Michael Parekowhai take over the stretch of lawn between the Gallery of Modern Art and GOMA Bistro.
  • We are shipwrecked and landlocked: Three white coated aluminium Cubist inspired trees by Martin Boyce at the gateway to the Kurilpa Bridge outside the western precinct of the Gallery of Modern Art.

Scott Redford ‘The High/ Perpetual Xmas, No Abstractions’

What others may call kitsch, Gold Coast artist Scott Redford sees as embodying a complex history and identity. Redford’s ‘Proposals’ series of sculptures examine and celebrate the Gold Coast as a remarkable phenomenon in late modern architecture and design in Queensland. In 2006, the Gallery acquired the artist’s Proposal for a Surfers Paradise public sculpture/Paradise now 2006. Subsequently, a second work from the series, titled The High/ Perpetual Xmas, No Abstractions 2008 was fabricated as a 10-metre high sculpture and erected at the forecourt to the Gallery of Modern Art where it flashes neon into the night.

Scott Redford, Australia b.1962 / The High/ Perpetual Xmas, No Abstractions 2008 / Brick, stone, steel, aluminium, 2-pack paint, acrylic, neon glass tube, fluorescent glass tube / 990 x 466 x 140cm (above-ground dimensions) / This project received financial assistance through Arts Queensland from art+place, the Queensland Government’s Public Arts Fund / Collection: ArtsWorks Queensland / © Scott Redford/Copyright Agency / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA

Lee Mingwei ‘The Bodhi Tree Project’

During the development of the Gallery of Modern Art in 2006, a work was commissioned from Lee Mingwei for the front of the Gallery — The Bodhi Tree 2006 — is an ambitious, living artwork, and resulted in a sapling descended from the sacred Bodhi Tree in Sri Lanka, the oldest species of tree to be depicted in Indian art and literature. Mingwei creates works which forge a direct connection between the artist and audience and his Bodhi Tree Project is intended as a focus for gathering and contemplation and as a work that continues to evolve in its engagement with community, memory, nature and culture. The tree was planted in 2008 and stands alongside six marble seats that echo the heart-shaped leaves of the Bodhi, designed by Mingwei and carved from Chilagoe marble by Queensland artist Paul Stumkat.

DELVE DEEPER: Lee Mingwei ‘Bodhi Tree Project’: An ambitious living artwork

Lee Mingwei, Taiwan/United States b.1964 / Bodhi Tree Project 2006 / Living installation Bodhi tree, marble seats (designed by Lee Mingwei; carved by Paul Stumkat, Queensland) / Commissioned by the Queensland Government for the Millennium Arts Project, Queensland Cultural Centre, Bodhi Tree Lawn, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Lee Mingwei / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA 

Judy Watson ‘tow row’

Judy Watson’s impressive cast bronze sculpture, tow row 2016 is a reimagination of a traditional fishing net used by Aboriginal people on the Brisbane River. The nets, locally known as ‘tow row’, were used to scoop up fish near the banks of the river, or to catch entire schools of fish in smaller creeks, where fishermen would stand midstream during the dropping tide, trapping the fish. The importance of the correlation between past, present and future is acknowledged by Watson, by creating this contemporary public sculpture, Watson enables us to glance at the history of the site.

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Judy Watson, Waanyi people, Australia b.1959 / tow row 2016 / Bronze / 193 x 175 x 300cm / Commissioned 2016 to mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art. This project has been realised with generous support from the Queensland Government, the Neilson Foundation and Cathryn Mittelheuser, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Judy Watson / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA 

Michael Parekowhai ‘The World Turns’

Michael Parekowhai is known for the use of wry humour and his skilful combination of popular culture, art, literature and history. The World Turns 2011–12 is a witty bronze sculpture which comprises a five-metre elephant bookend turned on its side, and don’t miss the kuril (illustrated), the native marsupial water rat significant to the dreaming of local Aboriginal people, and, at the periphery of the stretch of lawn, a solitary chair for you to sit and contemplate.

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Michael Parekowhai, Ngāti Whakarongo, New Zealand b.1968 The World Turns 2011-12 / Bronze / 488 x 456 x 293cm / Commissioned 2011 to mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art in 2006 and twenty years of The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art / This project has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through art+place Queensland Public Art Fund, and from the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Michael Parekowhai / Photographs: N Harth © QAGOMA 

Martin Boyce ‘We are shipwrecked and landlocked’

Martin Boyce’s three Cubist inspired trees are nestled within nature waiting to be discovered — a hidden gem outside the western precinct of the Gallery of Modern Art and the gateway to the Kurilpa Bridge which connects Kurilpa Point to Tank Street in Brisbane’s CBD. Boyce re-imagines twentieth-century Modernism through his sculptures and installations, which rework and give new life to modernist forms of art, architecture and design. We are shipwrecked and landlocked 2008-10 was inspired by a photograph of a group of four concrete Cubist trees designed by French sculptors Joel and Jan Martel in 1925.

DELVE DEEPER: Martin Boyce re-imagines twentieth-century Modernism

Martin Boyce, United Kingdom b.1967 / We are shipwrecked and landlocked 2008-10 / Polyurethane on aluminium / Three elements: 770cm (high, each) / Gift of Kaldor Public Art Projects (Sydney), the artist and The Modern Institute (Glasgow) with financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland 2010 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Martin Boyce / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA

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A tale of two blooms

 

During springtime, Brisbane is awash with colour — the lavender of the jacaranda mix with an array of red and yellow flowers. Spring is also when you can see the vermilion blooms of the Butea at its peak, due to its fiery appearance, it’s given the name ‘Flame of the Forest’.

R (Richard) Godfrey Rivers (1858-1925) painted the Butea blooms in An alien in Australia in 1904 (illustrated) for the Queensland Art Society’s annual exhibition. It’s easy to imagine that Rivers felt encouraged to produce a grand study of this exotic species after the enthusiastic response to his painting Under the jacaranda 1903 (illustrated) exhibited the previous year.

RELATED: Under the jacaranda

R. Godfrey Rivers ‘An alien in Australia’

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / An alien in Australia 1904, reworked later / Oil on canvas / 106.9 x 118.1cm / Gift of the Godfrey Rivers Trust 1941 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

The work An alien in Australia depicts the introduced ‘Flame of the Forest’ tree (Butea monosperma, formally known as Butea frondosa), the species native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. The tree Rivers painted was planted in Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens (illustrated) by Gardens Superintendent Walter Hill (1819-1904) in the 1860s.

Brisbane Botanical Gardens at the time

Overlooking the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in 1860, five years after establishment / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, ca. 1895 / The photograph features the jacaranda in Rivers’s painting Under the jacaranda showing the main features of the painting, including the stone edging and stairs to the right / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
The Kangaroo Point Cliffs, across the Brisbane River from the Botanical Gardens, c.1913 / 94520 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

As part of the classifying fervour that dominated botanical science in Europe, and to exploit the new ranges of plant material that were being discovered in the far corners of the world, in 1855 the Queensland Botanic Gardens were established at Gardens Point, and Hill became the first curator. Hill would row his boat to the wharves (illustrated) and place parcels of native Queensland plant seeds in the care of the ships’ captains, who would distribute them across the world. In reciprocation, plants from South America, including the jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia); from India and South-East Asia, the ‘Flame of the Forest’ (Butea monosperma); and from Madagascar, the royal poinciana (Delonix regia), were brought to Australia on these vessels, part of the thriving exchange of botanical specimens.

Brisbane Wharves at the time

Sailing ships moored in the Brisbane River, overlooking the buildings at the Brisbane Wharves, the Botanic Gardens and the Kangaroo Point cliffs in 1875 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
A family in their garden on the cliffs at Kangaroo Point in 1878, with ships docked at the Brisbane Wharves adjacent to the Botanic Gardens / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

The painting An alien in Australia however was not as well received as Under the jacaranda when it was first shown in the Annual Exhibition of the Queensland Art Society in Brisbane.

Coming to the domain of landscape painting, the most striking painting in the collection is Mr Godfrey Rivers’s Under the jacaranda (No.39), a study of one of the beautiful trees of that species in the Botanic Gardens. The artist has depicted the tree in full bloom, when its luxuriant flowers seem like a lavender-tinted haze, while the ground is littered with fallen blossoms. Under this charming shade he has placed a lady and gentleman seated at a table enjoying afternoon tea. The subject is a very pretty one, and it has been very happily treated, the general scheme of colouring being exceedingly effective.1

Under the jacaranda was purchased by the Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery almost immediately for the then substantial price of £100, and its had a presence at the Gallery ever since, one of our most-loved works.

Hoping to capitalise on this public approval, the following year Rivers exhibited another portrait of an individual tree — the Butea.

. . . if [Rivers] had been content to take the tree and a small area of the trimly kept lawn, in the midst of which [the tree] throws its graceful shade, he would have produced a picture to which little exception could be taken, but the bandstand has also been introduced . . . The structure has a crowded look, and its presence detracts from the beauty of the picture.2

R. Godfrey Rivers ‘Under the jacaranda’

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Rivers took this criticism to heart, sometime after the painting was exhibited he cut the painting down and reworked sections to remove all trace of the offending bandstand. The work remained in the collection of his widow, Selina Rivers, until 1941, when she presented it to the Queensland Art Gallery as An alien in Australia (the original title An alien in Queensland).

This aspect of the painting’s history was not known when the Godfrey Rivers Trust gifted An alien in Australia to the Gallery. This was only verified in 2001 when Gallery Conservator’s examined the work using infrared reflectance and discovered remnants of a bandstand. Rivers had cropped the left edge of the painting (illustrated) leaving only a corner of the bandstand (illustrated), this has then been painted over and adjacent shrubbery reworked.3

The remaining bandstand painted over

An alien in Australia 1904, reworked showing the original bandstand

The offending bandstand at the time

Bandstand in the Botanic Gardens, Brisbane c.1908 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane
Bandstand in the Botanic Gardens, Brisbane c.1910 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

While the vibrant vermilion blooms of the ‘Flame of the Forest’ would have stood out against the dark greens of its home in the tropical forests of South-East Asia, in Australia, it was the showy lavender jacaranda that drew the most admiration. A writer strolling through Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens in 1886 passed by the butea, simply noting its red-orange blooms, before exclaiming that:

The lovely jacaranda is perhaps the finest specimen of its kind to be seen in the colony. Not so brilliant in hue as the poinciana, nor so gorgeous as the bignonia, the delicate lavender of its profusion of blooms possesses a beauty peculiarly its own. For absolute loveliness it is unsurpassed by any of the magnificent flowering trees and shrubs which have been acclimatised here. The jacaranda, when in full bloom, is to a stranger a sight worth walking many miles to see. Seen from a distance among the green tops of sister trees, it seems as though shrouded by a beautiful blue cloud, but on closer inspection this gradually forms itself into myriads of delicate lavender blossoms, while the ground below is covered with a fairy-like carpet of the same tint, formed by the falling flowers.4

The jacaranda of Rivers’s painting survived until 1979, when it was blown over in a storm. A solitary specimen of the ‘Flame of the Forest’ still blooms in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, as it has done since it was painted by Rivers.

Edited extracts sourced from QAGOMA Curatorial research. Additional research and supplementary material by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA

Endnotes
1 The Queenslander, 17 October 1903, p.23.

2 ‘Queensland Art Society Annual Exhibition’, The Queenslander, 22 October 1904, p.27.
3 This was discovered in 2001 by Gallery Conservator Gillian Osmond.
4 ‘The Brisbane Parks and Reserves: The Queen’s Park and Botanic Gardens’, The Brisbane Courier, 8 July 1886.

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Go back in time to the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain

 

We take a look back at a lost but not forgotten Brisbane landmark — The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain — however the installation of a fountain in the Brisbane River in front of the Queensland Art Gallery was not part of the original plans for the Queensland Cultural Centre.

When the Queensland Government became aware that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was to visit the state in 1977 as part of her Jubilee celebrations, the Government was keen to have her visit the Cultural Centre site even though only preliminary site works would have been completed.

Queensland Cultural Centre model

Queensland Cultural Centre Model featuring the Jubilee Fountain outside the Queensland Art Gallery, 1977 / Image courtesy: QAGOMA Research Library

It was believed that the Queen would be reluctant to just lay a foundation stone at the site of the future art gallery, so Cultural Centre architect Robin Gibson proposed a large fountain in the river in time for the Queen’s visit. Queen Elizabeth II activated the Jubilee Fountain on 11 March 1977 and laid the Foundation Stone before a crowd of official guests and the public, surrounded by a flotilla of pleasure craft.

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain celebrations

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain celebrations at the Queensland Art Gallery South Bank site, 11 March 1977 / Image courtesy: Sunday Mail, Brisbane / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during the Silver Jubilee visit which marked the completion of the preliminary development of the site, 11 March 1977 / Image courtesy: Sunday Mail, Brisbane / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Sir David Muir, Chairman of the Queensland Art Gallery Cultural Centre Trust (left), with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during the Silver Jubilee visit which marked the completion of the preliminary development of the site, 11 March 1977 / Image courtesy: Sunday Mail, Brisbane / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain celebrations at the Queensland Art Gallery South Bank site, 11 March 1977 / Image courtesy: QAGOMA Research Library

Silver Jubilee Fountain

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain was designed as a tetrahedron, a pyramid of three triangles of equal dimensions, that sat above the water line with 30 large hidden pipes that shot water high into the air, and at night it lit up the city skyline with more than 90 lights.

The Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fountain / Courtesy: Queensland Art Gallery pamphlet, 1979 / Photograph: D McCarthy / Image courtesy:: QAGOMA Research Library

The Jubilee Fountain became a Brisbane landmark and marked the position of the future permanent home of the Queensland Art Gallery until its opening some five years later. The relationship of the Brisbane River to the Gallery was reinforced with water elements within its interior, providing both a physical connection and serving as a parallel reflection of the river. When the Gallery opened at South Bank on 21 June 1982, the most prominent and striking feature of the interior was its central Watermall, a perfect companion to the exterior river fountain.

The Watermall also extended beyond the Gallery’s interior from five cast bronze Pelicans by Queensland sculptors Leonard and Kathleen Shillam from the eastern-side to the Dandelion Fountains created by innovative fountain designer Robert Woodward (known for his fountain at Kings Cross in Sydney) through to the Gallery’s Sculpture Courtyard pond and waterfall to the west.

The Fountain malfunctioned constantly, the pumps having to not only contend with the river’s tidal estuary and brackish water, but the sand and mud silt flowing through the river. Unfortunately Brisbane’s unique landmark in front of the Queensland Art Gallery was only enjoyed for another three years after the Gallery’s opening before it was decommissioned in 1985. 

DELVE DEEPER: The history of the Queensland Art Gallery

Max Dupain, Australia 1911-1992 / Looking across the river towards the Queensland Art Gallery 1982 / Collection: QAGOMA Research Library
Queensland Art Gallery and the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Fountain, June 1982 / Image courtesy: QAGOMA Research Library / Photograph: Richard Stringer

Additional research and supplementary material by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA, sourced from the QAGOMA Research Library Special Collections.

Featured image: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during the Silver Jubilee visit which marked the completion of the preliminary development of the site, 11 March 1977 / Image courtesy: Sunday Mail, Brisbane
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Go back in time to Daphne Mayo’s 1914 Wattle Day celebrations

 

It’s National Wattle Day on the first day of September, and we’ve been celebrating the Wattle for different reasons for over a century. QAGOMA has a sculpture in its Collection by artist Daphne Mayo that has a special connection to the Queensland Wattle League dating back to 1914.

Daphne Mayo (1895–1982) is one of Queensland’s most significant twentieth century artists. Mayo was an outstanding sculptor and creator of some of Brisbane’s grandest monuments, notably the Brisbane City Hall tympanum (opened 8 April 1930) (illustrated) and the Queensland Women’s War Memorial at Anzac Square (unveiled 24 March 1932) (illustrated), as well as a passionate advocate for the arts, including the establishment of the Queensland Art Fund, the John Darnell Bequest, and the Godfrey Rivers Trust, which transformed the Queensland Art Gallery Collection through the purchase of works.

Daphne Mayo working on the Brisbane City Hall tympanum, 1930

Daphne Mayo working on the Brisbane City Hall tympanum, 1930 / Image courtesy: QAGOMA Research Library

Daphne Mayo working on the central figure of the Brisbane City Hall tympanum, 1930 / Daphne Mayo Collection, UQFL119 / Image courtesy: The University of Queensland, Brisbane

Daphne Mayo working on the Queensland Women’s War Memorial, 1932

Daphne Mayo finalising the Queensland Women’s War Memorial panel, Anzac Square, Brisbane, c.1932 / Daphne Mayo Collection, UQFL119 / Image courtesy: The University of Queensland, Brisbane

Educated in Brisbane, Mayo received a Diploma in Art Craftsmanship from the Brisbane Central Technical College in 1913, and during her time at the College, Mayo was taught by Godfrey Rivers, however she was also influenced by LJ Harvey who initiated her interest in modelling.

At College Mayo created a copy of the masterpiece of Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic era — Winged Victory of Samothrace — (illustrated) which was awarded the Wattle Day Travelling Art Fellowship in 1914, provided by the Queensland Wattle League.

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RELATED: Wattle

The Wattle Day League formed in 1909 and sold sprigs of wattle to raise funds for charitable causes, such as art training in Europe. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the League shifted its efforts to the home front and focussed on raising funds for the troops overseas and commemorating the war.

Daphne Mayo with her sculpture ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’, 1914

Daphne Mayo with her winning copy of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, 1914 / 72615 / Image courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Daphne Mayo participating in Wattle Day celebrations, 1914

Daphne Mayo (dressed as a wattle maid, the centre foreground) participating in Wattle Day celebrations in Brisbane, 1914 / Image courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Raising funds on Wattle Day, 1914

Raising funds during the First World War by selling sprigs of wattle on Wattle Day, Courier Building, Brisbane / The Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 1 August, 1914 / Image courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

‘Wattle Day’ badges

‘Wattle Day’ badges c.1914 / Image courtesy: Museums Victoria

Mayo can be seen at Brisbane’s old Town Hall (illustrated) on Brisbane’s second Wattle Day in July 1914. Mayo is dressed as a wattle maid in the centre foreground. The Mayoress of Brisbane and the Central Committee of the Queensland Wattle Day League accompany her.

Mayo further developed her skills with this opportunity to go to London in 1919 — her departure from Brisbane delayed by the First World War — where she was accepted into the Royal Academy of Arts Sculpture School. Before she left, the Queenslander profiled her award and work ‘Miss Mayo is the first art student to be despatched by the Brisbane Wattle Day League under its scholarship scheme to study abroad. She has chosen sculpture as her specialty’ (illustrated).

Daphne Mayo’s ‘Queenslander’ profile, 1919

The Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 9 August 1919, p.25 / 21281402600002061 / Image courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Daphne Mayo, 1919

Daphne Mayo, 1919 / Sepia photograph / Daphne Mayo Collection, UQFL119 / Image courtesy: The University of Queensland, Brisbane

Mayo modelled Sketch (of a boy) (illustrated) soon after entering the Royal Academy in December 1920. In her words, it symbolises ‘the awakening from childhood into youth’ and was ‘only a month’s study at 1 3/4 hours a night, so it is not carried nearly as far as it could be’, hence its title Sketch. Under the terms of her travelling scholarship awarded by the Queensland Wattle Day League, the figure was forwarded to the League which, in turn, presented it to the Queensland Art Gallery in 1923. Mayo would return to Brisbane in June 1925.

Edited curatorial extracts, research and supplementary material sourced and compiled by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA

Daphne Mayo ‘Sketch (of a boy)’

Daphne Mayo, Australia 1895-1982 / Sketch (of a boy) (and detail) 1921, cast 1961 / Bronze / 76 x 32.5 x 20cm / Commissioned 1961 from a cast gifted by Queensland Wattle Day League 1923 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Surf Lifesaving Foundation and The United Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.)

Daphne Mayo at the Royal Academy of Arts

Daphne Mayo (second from right) in a life study class, Royal Academy of Arts, London, c.1923 / Daphne Mayo Collection, UQFL119 / Image courtesy: The University of Queensland, Brisbane

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Go back in time with Brisbane’s two finest craftsmen

 

There is little furniture from the Arts and Crafts period in Queensland that can match the fluid carving of the art nouveau foliate motifs in this hallstand from the 1920s, the scale and workmanship bears the mark of two of Queensland’s finest craftsmen — John Merten and Lewis Jarvis (LJ) Harvey.

John Merten (1861-1932) was born in Germany and records show that he was one of the most talented apprentices of his year. Merten arrived in Brisbane with his family in 1887 and commenced business as a cabinetmaker in Stanley Street, South Brisbane, and by 1888 was awarded a First Order of Merit for a walnut box and a black bean and pine writing desk at his first exhibition.

The most consistent exhibition venue for cabinetmakers in Brisbane from the late nineteenth century was the annual exhibition of the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association and when Merten exhibited in the ‘artisan’ section his furniture was always highly praised. Between 1888 and 1931 Merten exhibited workboxes, bookcases, sideboards, writing desks, and several suites of dining and bedroom furniture.

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National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland

Bowen Park (now known as the Brisbane Showgrounds) was the site for the first Queensland Intercolonial Exhibition in 1876, the exhibition was organised to promote the state’s agricultural, pastoral, and industrial resources, including showcasing local arts and crafts, and manufactured goods. The park was bordered by Bowen Bridge Road, O’Connell Terrace, Brookes Street and Gregory Terrace and the month of August was chosen as ideal due to its generally fine weather, it avoided any clashes with local shows, stock feed was available, and it was before the spring shearing season. 

Queensland resources and produce on display

Minerals from Central Queensland on display, c.1900 / 43948 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

A range of drinks, including a display by Castlemaine Brewery, c.1900 / 43985 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Harrison’s jams and jellies display: First Order of Merit Prize, 1903 / 4225 / Courtesy: Queensland University of Technology

With the success in attracting 17,000 visitors on opening day when Brisbane’s population at the time was just 22,000, the exhibition became a permanent fixture in Brisbane’s social calendar. Brisbane’s first Exhibition Building at Bowen Hills (illustrated) used by the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association was destroyed by fire on 13 June 1888 and was replaced by the current Exhibition Building and Concert Hall (Old Museum Building) (illustrated). The current building was built in 1891, however the Queensland Government took control of the building and grounds when the National Association was forced into liquidation by the economic depression in 1897.

Fine Arts on display in the original Exhibition Building, 1886-87

Fine Arts on display in the original Exhibition Building during the inaugural Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association Exhibition, 1876 / 110220 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Displays in the original Exhibition Building during the second Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association Exhibition, 1877 / 15769 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Brisbane Showground Exhibition Building, destroyed 1888

Original Exhibition Building used by the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association at Bowen Hills, Brisbane, c. 1877 / 61133 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Exhibition Building (Old Museum Building), built 1891

The current Exhibition Building at Bowen Hills, Brisbane, c.1900/ 182289 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Main arena, 1896

Main arena at the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland, 1896 / 160063 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

The expanded main arena & ring events by 1906

The Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association, c.1906 / 67420 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

John Merten’s connection to St John’s Cathedral

During the visit to Brisbane in May 1901 by the Duke and Duchess of York, the then Prince George, and Mary (the future King George V and Queen Mary) where they laid the foundation stone of St John’s Cathedral (illustrated), Merten was entrusted with making a carved casket (illustrated) from native woods including Black bean, with a drop front, into which is slotted a watercolour illuminated manuscript address which was presented by the Government of Queensland (now in the Royal Collection Trust, UK).

Merten was also commissioned to design liturgical furniture for the Victorian Gothic style Cathedral. The first stage of construction began in 1906 and took four years to complete, constructed from ‘Brisbane Tuff’ and Helidon sandstone from the Lockyer Valley Region of southeast Queensland, east of Toowoomba. Helidon sandstone was used extensively in public buildings at the time, including the Brisbane Treasury Building (construction started 1886), Brisbane City Hall (construction started 1920), and the University of Queensland (construction started 1938).

Laying of the foundation stone, 1901

Crowds gathered to view the laying of the foundation stone for St John’s Cathedral, 1901. The foundation stone of Helidon pink stone formed the base of a choir pier and was suspended from a tripod. Work commenced on the Cathedral in 1906 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Construction of St John’s Cathedral,1906

The construction of St John’s Anglican Cathedral began in 1906 and the first section of the Cathedral was completed in 1910, c.1909 / 69140 /Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

St John’s Anglican Cathedral, c.1910-11 / 119856 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

John Merten ‘Address casket’, 1901

John Merten, Australia 1861-1932 / Address casket 1901 / Queensland Black bean and native Queensland woods / 49.0 x 55.3 x 34.0 cm / Collection: Royal Collection Trust, UK

Prince George at Government House, 1901

Prince George, Government House, May 1901 / 188890 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

John Merten & LJ Harvey ‘Hallstand’ 1920

Of particular interest here is Merten’s collaboration with Queensland’s principal Arts and Crafts practitioner, Lewis Jarvis (LJ) Harvey (1871-1949) as, at that time, carving and cabinetmaking were distinct trades. Harvey, an accomplished carver, lived on Gray Road, Hill End (now Brisbane’s West End), less than 100 metres from Merten, who resided in Hoogley Street. Harvey collaborated with Merten on two major sideboards: a neo-Renaissance style for Harvey’s wife in 1909; the other in art nouveau c.1925 (Collection: Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney) (illustrated). It is known that Harvey also carved motifs on other examples of Merten’s cabinetwork.

John Merten, Cabinetmaker, Australia 1861-1935; L.J. Harvey, Carver, Australia 1871-1949 / Hallstand 1920s / Black bean (Castanospermum australe) assembled and carved with leather seat and copper drip tray / hallstand: 198 x 115 x 56cm; drip tray: 4.4 x 40.5 x 30.7cm / Gift of Janet and Jack Grace through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2003. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

‘Queenslander’ furniture

The furniture that decorated the typical ‘Queenslander’ home in Brisbane during the first half of the twentieth century was essentially a simplified Arts and Crafts style. The preferred timber was silky oak and, although Black bean (Moreton Bay chestnut) is native to the Brisbane area, it was used from the 1890s in small quantities. 

From the nineteenth century the native forests of south east Queensland provided a resource for building and cabinet timber. The silky oak’s primary significance locally was as a cabinet timber — it achieved recognition at the Queensland National Agricultural and Industrial Association exhibition in 1901 when manufacturer, John Hicks and cabinet-maker, John Merten were awarded First Orders of Merit for bedroom suites. John Hicks established his furniture business in the 1860s in Albert Street, Brisbane and led to a series of relocations and expansions over the decades that followed. For the next forty years silky-oak became the dominant timber used to furnish ‘Queenslander’ homes for the bedroom, lounge and dining rooms.

Black bean was also considered a valuable source of timber, its dark-brown to almost black timber somewhat resembles walnut. Black bean derives its name from its large bean-like seeds from flushes of yellow and red flowers during summer, however these seeds are the poisonous part of the plant, and the timber’s sawdust is also toxic.

RELATED: Lewis Jarvis (LJ) Harvey

John Merten, who had the reputation of being one of the finest cabinet makers in Australia, continued to make furniture for some 50 years, while LJ Harvey is appreciated locally for his woodcarving — he was a prominent figure within Queensland’s Arts and Crafts Movement in the first half of the 20th century — he also inspired the largest school of art pottery in Australia during the 1920s and 30s.

Edited curatorial extracts, research and supplementary material compiled by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, from Glenn R Cooke, former Curator (Queensland Heritage), QAGOMA.

(Left) The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), Wed 20 Jul 1932, Page 15, Courtesy: Trove, National Library Australia / (Right) John Merten, Cabinetmaker, Australia 1861-1932; LJ Harvey, Carver, Australia 1871-1949, Sideboard c.1925, Collection: Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney

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Go back in time to Margaret Olley’s Brisbane

 

Margaret Olley moved to Brisbane when she was 12 and was a boarder at Somerville House school for girls in South Brisbane from 1937 to 1940 where they were quick to recognise Olley’s talents and recommended to her mother that she attend art school. Her friend and fellow artist Margaret Cilento also began formal art studies at the same school.

Olley’s journey to becoming an artist began at the Brisbane Central Technical College in 1941 (now Queensland University of Technology). She moved to Sydney in 1943 to enrol in a diploma of art at East Sydney Technical College (later the National Art School), graduating with first-class honours in 1947. In Sydney Olley connected with many Australian art luminaries — such as Russell and Bon Drysdale, Donald Friend and Justin O’Brien — and experimented with a wide range of subject matter for her works, including landscapes, figures and still lifes.

DELVE DEEPER: Discover more fascinating Queensland Stories

Margaret Cilento & Margaret Olley

Margaret Cilento and Margaret Olley (right) at McMahons Point, Sydney c.1943 / Courtesy: Bequest of Margaret Olley 2011, Margaret Olley Archive, Art Gallery of New South Wales Archive

Frequent trips back home to Brisbane also served as inspiration, and she captured many of the city’s buildings in paint. Olley’s well-received first solo exhibition was opened on 30 June 1948 by Russell Drysdale at the Macquarie Galleries, Sydney, and four months later she held another successful exhibition at Moreton Galleries, Brisbane. Olley’s growing popularity made her an attractive subject for artists, and William Dobell’s portrait of Olley won the Archibald Prize in 1948 (illustrated).

William Dobell ‘Margaret Olley’

William Dobell, Australia 1899–1970 / Margaret Olley 1948 / Oil on hardboard / 148 x 118.5 x 13cm / Purchased 1949 / Collection: Art Gallery New South Wales / © William Dobell/Copyright Agency

Margaret Olley and William Dobell in ‘Painting People’ 1965 in front of William Dobell’s 1948 Archibald Prize–winning portrait of Olley / Still supplied by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s Film Australia Collection / © NFSA

Olley set sail for Europe with friend Mitty Lee-Brown in January 1949. Fellow artist Anne Wienholt had generously provided funds for Olley to travel abroad and study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris 1950 (illustrated) resulted from her in time in the French capital, as the academy was situated close to the Luxembourg Gardens. Olley honed her drawing skills by producing a considerable volume of richly detailed pen, ink and wash sketches of buildings observed on her extensive travels.

Margaret Olley ‘Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris’

Margaret Olley, Australia 1923-2011 / Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris 1950 / Watercolour, gouache, pen and ink on paperboard / 57 x 67.5cm / Purchased 1950 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Margaret Olley returns to Brisbane

Margaret Olley in the garden at Farndon c.1950s / Margaret Olley Archive, Art Gallery of New South
Wales Archive

In 1953 Olley returned from travelling abroad to her family home in Morry Street, Hill End (now West End) after the sudden death of her father. In the first few years after her return, Olley travelled to Sydney from time to time to meet new artists and renew friendships with Donald Friend, David Strachan and Sidney, Cynthia and Jinx Nolan, and these friends visited her in Brisbane. In Brisbane a lively art circle surrounded Brian and Marjorie Johnstone’s Gallery, where Olley met artists Ray Crooke, Jon Molvig and Charles and Barbara Blackman. A supportive environment for Olley and many other progressive artists of the time was similarly encouraged by the appointment of Robert Haines as Director of the then named Queensland National Art Gallery, and by art historian Dr Gertrude Langer’s writing as art critic for the city’s Courier-Mail newspaper.

Margaret Olley at the Johnstone Gallery

(Left to right) Brian Johnstone, Marjorie Johnstone and Margaret Olley at the Johnstone Gallery 1957 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Back at the family home in ‘Farndon’, Brisbane no longer seemed quite as stifling. Towards the end of the 1950s Olley opened an antique shop at Stones Corner, an inner southern suburb of the city, and on the way to and home had to change trams. Olley reminisced…

I had to change trams at South Brisbane, which was very run-down in those days, full of depressed-looking hotels, real bloodhouses.

Trams at South Brisbane

Pedestrians crossing Grey Street, Melbourne Street intersection (toward the future Performing Arts Complex) from South Brisbane Railway Station, 1961 / 84568 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Tram at Stanley Street, South Brisbane before entering Melbourne Street, 1964. Currently the site of South Bank Parklands / BCC-TR-1374 – 000464 / Courtesy: Brisbane City Council

South Brisbane 1966 and Victoria Bridge II 1966 (both illustrated) are the subjects of some of her ink and watercolour studies of the area. Not long after, the area would dramatically change.

The Victoria Bridge illustrated in Olley’s studies was replaced in 1969 with the current sleek design, the third permanent crossing erected at this location, a portion of the southern pedestrian arch that Olley references remains.

Victoria Bridge II is drawn from where the Queensland Art Gallery Melbourne Street Plaza is now situated, and the buildings pictured on the left of Melbourne Street in South Brisbane were demolished toward the end of 1966 to make way for the new and third Victoria Bridge, and those on the right from 1978 for the construction of the Cultural Centre’s Performing Arts Complex.

RELATED: The history of the Queensland Art Gallery

One can imagine Olley sketching these landmarks in South Brisbane while in transit, knowing of the impending demolition and bridge construction to come just months later. However, what Olley didn’t know was just some years later, the area would be claimed for the future new premises of the Queensland Art Gallery.

Margaret Olley ‘South Brisbane’

Margaret Olley, Australia 1923-2011 / South Brisbane 1966 / Ink and watercolour on paper / 38.5 x 49cm / Gift of the Margaret Olley Art Trust through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Contemporary photography of South Brisbane

Hotel Victoria, Cnr Stanley and Melbourne Streets, South Brisbane, c.1950, demolished 1978 to make way for the Performing Arts Complex opposite the Queensland Art Gallery / 31557-0001-0082 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Victoria Building (AD 1887) on the Corner of Melbourne and Stanley Streets, South Brisbane, demolished 1966 to make way for the new Victoria Bridge. Currently the site of the Queensland Art Gallery / P53949 / Courtesy: Royal Historical Society of Queensland

A crane works on demolition of the Victoria Building in preparation for the new Victoria Bridge, September 1966 / 188208 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland

Second Victoria Bridge photographed from its southern end during construction of the third permanent bridge, 1968. The new bridge opened to traffic in April 1969 with the archway to the right of the old bridge retained after the bridge’s demolition / 110494 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland

Margaret Olley ‘Victoria Bridge II’

Margaret Olley, Australia 1923-2011 / Victoria Bridge II 1966 / Pen and watercolour on paper / 38.5 x 49cm / Collection: Moreton Bay Regional Council / © Estate of Margaret Olley

Contemporary photography of Victoria Bridge

The second permanent Victoria Bridge c.1933. This bridge was officially opened in October 1896 and decommissioned in April 1969 / 78161 / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland

Both Victoria Bridges, December 1969, with the earlier second version being removed / Courtesy: Queensland State Archives

The Brisbane of Olley’s youth had changed little in her absence since her return in the early 1950s — the city was still the same large country town on the banks of the meandering Brisbane River. The refuge of ‘Farndon’ would play a pivotal role in Olley’s life, tying her to Brisbane for many years, however the city she knew was changing.

RELATED: The proposals for a Cultural Centre for Queensland

The Supreme Court building she recorded in George Street, North Quay in 1966 (illustrated), opposite the current Queensland Art Gallery at South Bank, and once proposed as the future site of the Gallery in 1948, was destroyed by arson in 1968, the remains of the building demolished in 1976 for a new Law Courts Complex.

Margaret Olley ‘Law Courts, Brisbane’

Margaret Olley, Australia 1923-2011 / Law Courts, Brisbane 1966 / Ink and watercolour on paper / 39 x 50cm / Purchased 2019 with funds from the Bequest of Helen Dunoon through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Margaret Olley Art Trust

Supreme Court building

Rear of the Supreme Court building viewed from North Quay / 7789-0004-0038 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Front of the Supreme Court Building, George Street entrance, Brisbane, c.1889 / 80784 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

View to South Brisbane from the Supreme Court building

View from Brisbane’s CBD towards South Brisbane with the Supreme Court building in the right foreground, c.1960 / 6668-0001-0005 / Courtesy: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Olley left Brisbane two years before the Queensland Art Gallery opened in 1982. Her family home ‘Farndon’ was destroyed by fire in 1980, and Olley moved back to Sydney permanently having already purchased a terrace house in Duxford St, Paddington in 1964 to stay when visiting and an adjacent former hat factory which she renovated to use as a studio. 1982 saw the passing of Olley’s mother Grace, finally breaking the ties to Brisbane.

Margaret Olley at ‘Farndon’

Margaret Olley and her mother Grace at ‘Farndon’, 1966 / Photograph: Bob Millar / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane / Reproduced with the permission of Bauer Media Pty Limited

Margaret Olley painting at on the verandah at ‘Farndon’, 1966 / Photograph: Bob Millar / Courtesy: State Library of Queensland, Brisbane / Reproduced with the permission of Bauer Media Pty Limited

Edited curatorial extracts, research and supplementary material compiled by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer based on Michael Hawker’s QAGOMA publication Margaret Olley: A Generous Life.

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