In 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary, the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) was officially gazetted as Australia’s national floral emblem, enjoying a popular acceptance as the national flower long before then.
We’ve been celebrating the Wattle for different reasons over the last century, and in 2020 for the first time, Brisbane is lighting up in yellow to celebrate National Wattle Day, however, it wasn’t until 1 September 1992 that our National Day has been celebrated together in all of Australia’s States and Territories, before then, it was recognised on different days between July (in Queensland) and October depending on its peak flowering season.
So, with the start of the Australian spring on the first of September, wear a sprig of the flowers and leaves to celebrate the day with us. Alternatively, you could go all out and decorate your car in blooms as they did in Brisbane a century ago.
Selling sprigs of Wattle Flowers, 1914
Wattle Day Procession, 1917
Vida Lahey ‘Wattle in a yellow vase’
Vida Lahey (1882-1968) is one of Queensland’s best loved artists, establishing her national profile with her modernist paintings of flowers in the 1920s and 30s.
Australian floral subjects have been popular since the 1890s, and after Australia attained nationhood through the federation of its six states in 1901, sentiments of national pride, and patriotism soon developed with the Wattle a favourite floral subject and emblem of Australia.
In Lahey’s lifetime, the Wattle flower was a favourite subject, with the Wattle Day League founded in Sydney in 1909, and a Queensland branch of the Wattle Day League established in 1912 by Mrs Josephine Papi. Her husband, Ferdinand, was an associate of the Queensland Art Society, of which Lahey was a member, and it is possible that Lahey contributed Wattle in a yellow vase c.1912-15 to a promotional event at the time, which is one of Lahey’s earliest flower studies.
Besides Vida Lahey’s link to the Wattle Day League in Brisbane with her painting Wattle in a yellow vase, her contemporary Daphne Mayo (1895-1982), another celebrated Queensland artist and one of the country’s leading sculptors of the twentieth century, also had a Wattle connection.
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 influenced by LJ Harvey who initiated her interest in modelling. She further developed her skills when she was presented with an opportunity to go to London in 1919 (her departure from Brisbane being delayed for some years by the First World War) where she was accepted into the Sculpture School of the Royal Academy. Mayo had been awarded the Wattle Day travelling art fellowship in 1914, provided by the Queensland Wattle League.
Mayo can be seen at the (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 and Lahey were active in Queensland art affairs over a long period, both were involved with the Queensland Art Gallery in various capacities and helped to establish the Queensland Art Fund (founded in 1929) with the aim of acquiring major works for the Gallery’s collection.
Edited curatorial extracts, research and supplementary material sourced and compiled by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA
Daphne Mayo as a wattle maid
Brisbane Town Hall
Featured image detail: Vida Lahey Wattle in a yellow vase c.1912-15
How often does a five metre high, five and a half tonne bronze sculpture, arrive by barge on the Brisbane river with the aim to be lifted by crane on to the back of a truck, just to be slowly driven a few meters into position before being installed by a fearless team?
Well, on Wednesday 14 November 2012 this actually happened. QAGOMA’s major public sculpture The World Turns by international artist Michael Parekowhai was installed on the banks of the Brisbane River outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). The sculpture was commissioned in 2011 to mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of GOMA and twenty years of ‘The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT).
The World Turns 2011-12 consists of three interrelated life-sized elements cast in bronze: a massive bookend in the form of an Indian elephant tipped on its head; easily overlooked, a kuril, the local native water rat; and a chair, which invites the viewer to sit and contemplate the work. The sculpture’s placement with the spectacular Brisbane skyline in the background adds to the overall appreciation.
Nestled beside GOMA and the State Library of Queensland and easily viewed from the river, you’d be excused for missing the animal encounter on foot, as its not a well-trodden thoroughfare, however its definitely worth the visit next time you are in the Cultural Precinct.
Parekowhai is known for the use of wry humour and his skilful combination of popular culture, art, literature and history. Along with the traditional Aboriginal custodians, the kuril is one of the caretakers of the land upon which the Gallery stands. Here, the kuril is planted firmly on the ground, going about its business grooming its fur, even though the world is upturned from its axis — represented by the upturned elephant bookend — its positioning referencing the nearby library.
The sculpture reminds us that history is often recorded to highlight specific moments, but, as the world turns, there are many other stories, and these are central to our understanding of history.
A hidden gem on the Kurilpa Lawn outside the western precinct of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Martin Boyce’s three Cubist inspired trees are nestled within nature waiting to be discovered. 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. Here we delve into We are shipwrecked and landlocked and its original 1925 form.
As the artist stated in a 2005 interview,
‘By and large what you’re looking at is something from the past, but I want to bring it into the now and see what effect time has had.’
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. More than fifteen feet high, each tree had a cruciform trunk supporting quadrangular planes attached vertically and at angles, suggesting foliage. Created for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts), the Martels’ trees were featured as a collaboration in the Paris garden of influential French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens.
The Martel twins work include ornamental sculptures, statues, monuments and fountains displaying characteristics typical of the Art Deco and Cubist periods. Sharing the same workshop, their jointly created works were co-signed simply Martel.
Jan and Joël Martel ‘Maquette for Arbre Cubiste (Cubist Tree)’ 1925
Jan and Joël Martel ‘Cubist trees’ 1925
Cubist trees in the press 1925
Martin Boyce ‘We are shipwrecked and landlocked’ 2008-10
Boyce has commented that the trees ‘represent a perfect collapse of architecture and nature’; they are constructed using industrial materials and based on a form that was, in turn, abstracted from nature.
Boyce has installed versions of the Martels’ trees in a range of environments, including a fifteenth-century Venetian palace and gallery exhibitions in Zurich and Edinburgh. The sculpture at GOMA was originally commissioned by Kaldor Public Art Projects for a square at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and was subsequently gifted to the Gallery. Estranged from their original 1925 context, the trees are like characters that the artist casts in different locations, each location suggesting a new narrative.
International Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts
The World’s Exposition was held in Paris from April to October 1925, designed by the French government to highlight the new style moderne of architecture, interior decoration, furniture, glass, jewelry and other decorative arts in Europe and throughout the world.
The tallest structure in the Exposition, and one of the most modernist, was the tower of the Tourism Pavilion by Robert Mallet-Stevens, which featured the Martels’ trees. The tower’s sleek lines and lack of ornament stood out above the colorful entrances, sculptural friezes, and murals of ceramics and metal of the other pavilions and was an announcement of the international style that would replace Art Deco.
Edited QAGOMA curatorial extracts, additional research and supplementary material sourced and compiled by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA.
International Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts 1925
‘We are shipwrecked and landlocked’ being installed at GOMA
We look back to Queensland’s settlement through the pioneering photography of Richard Daintree (1832-78). Daintree moved to Queensland in 1864 where he ran pastoral properties, explored new territory from a geological perspective, and indulged his interest in photography. This selection of photographs are from a group of 20 Queensland images from around 1870.
The surname should be familiar, taking its name from Richard Daintree, the Daintree Rainforest north of Mossman is part of the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia and the oldest surviving tropical rainforest in the world. A number of features in North Queensland have also been named, including the town of Daintree, the Daintree National Park, the Daintree River, and the Daintree Reef.
Daintree was born in England, the son of a farmer, however, because of ill health he left England in 1852 to join the gold rush in Victoria. An unsuccessful prospector, he joined the Victorian Geological Survey in 1854, two years later he decided to return to England to study assaying, and during this time he became interested in photography. On his return to Australia, Daintree worked with another significant early photographer, Antoine Fauchery, developing a popular volume of photographic studies entitled ‘Australia’.
Richard Daintree ‘Second Class Pastoral’
Richard Daintree ‘Cleared Scrub Land: Banks Mary River’
In 1864 Daintree become a resident partner with William Hann in pastoral properties in the new Burdekin country of North Queensland. He spent some years running the properties and indulging his interest in photography, but also persisted in his exploration of Queensland from a geological point of view, particularly with a view to opening up goldfields. Daintree advocated a geological survey of Queensland and in 1868 was appointed the geologist in charge of the survey for the northern division.
Richard Daintree ‘Brisbane’
Richard Daintree ‘Parliament House’
In 1871 Queensland was invited to participate in the London International Exhibition. The purpose of these exhibitions for colonies like Queensland was to attract immigrants and investment, and Daintree proposed an exhibit that combined geological specimens with his photographs, providing the young colony with a unique opportunity to present itself. The government invited him to personally supervise the exhibit and be present to answer people’s questions.
Surviving the ordeal of shipwreck on the voyage, in which he lost all but his photographic negatives, Daintree mounted the exhibit, which was a great success, resulting in his appointment as Agent-General for Queensland. He then began a series of promotional works in the 1870s that made maximum use of the technologies of photography, such as large format photographs that employed the new carbon printing process (the patent was owned by the Autotype Printing Company in London). The image was produced in sensitised pigmented gelatin by exposure to light under a negative, producing a picture in ink from the gelatin plate.
Daintree’s promotional scheme also included using images in other forms such as publications and slideshows. In 1873 he produced a book called ‘Queensland, Australia’, which offered a detailed account of the colony’s geographical position, climate and resources, intended as a handbook for prospective immigrants and investors. The photographs detailed the exact nature of the country, its productive capacities and its cost of purchase. Underneath an image you would see a caption, such as ‘First class pastoral land – ten shillings an acre’. It would seem that this group of images was intended for this purpose.
Richard Daintree ‘Open forest country: First Class Pastoral land’
Richard Daintree ‘Open volcanic plains: First Class Pastoral land’
Richard Daintree ‘Free selector’s slab hut’
Daintree used several images to illustrate what life might be like for prospective immigrants. To the farmer he wrote:
The future agriculturalist would take care to select a small patch of the richest agricultural land, either alluvial scrub or volcanic. [See photographs number ten, three, four and six]. He will put up a slab hut, such as depicted here, from timber off his own land, fence in his selection. And then it will be his own fault if he has not plenty to eat and drink.1
He then wrote to the miner:
The immigrant who intends to take his chance at the goldfields must not run away with the idea that fortune awaits him. He will probably be no better housed than the miners seen in this illustration [photograph no. 17]. However, it will be admitted, they do not look as if their rough habitation or mode of life disagrees with them. 2
Endnotes 1 Sear, Martha. ‘Photographer Richard Daintree’s glass plates’, transcript of talk by the Senior Curator, National Museum of Australia, recorded 10.10.2007, <http://www.nma.gov.au/audio/transcripts/NMA_sear_20071010.html> 2 Ibid.
Richard Daintree ‘Scrub Land: Banks of Mary River’
Richard Daintree ‘Gold Miners’ Bark Hut’
Glass plate positive
Additional research and supplementary material by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer, based on Michael Hawker’s curatorial research.
Featured image detail: Richard Daintree (Squatter’s homestead) (no. 16 from ‘Images of Queensland’ series) c.1870
In the late 19th century, Queensland artists Isaac Walter Jenner and R. Godfrey Rivers successfully lobbied for the creation of a state art gallery, with the Queensland National Art Gallery established in 1895. The new Gallery was opened by the Queensland Governor, Sir Henry Wylie Norman at temporary premises in old Town Hall on Queen Street with an inaugural display of 38 pictures, one marble bust, and 70 engravings. It occupied a series of temporary premises prior to the opening of its permanent home at South Bank in 1982, joined by the Gallery of Modern Art in 2006. Together the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) celebrates 125 years on 29 March 2020.
Brisbane Town Hall
In 1896, a year after establishment, the Queensland National Art Gallery acquired Blandford Fletcher’s Victorian painting Evicted 1887. Depicting the plight of a mother and daughter, it is still one of the Gallery’s most popular works with visitors. The painting displays an interest in the human stories associated with English village life, and typify late Victorian appeals to the social conscience in an age of rapid industrialisation, reform and economic hardship.
Evicted presents the narrative of a dispossessed widow and her child, forced to leave their home while a top‑hatted bailiff and the other villagers look on. The location has since been identified as Steventon in Berkshire, where the same lime-washed houses still stand.
Paintings such as Evicted fell out of favour in the early years of the twentieth century. With the passing of Queen Victoria in 1901 and the emerging prosperity and relative peace of the Edwardian era, images of childhood and poverty suddenly seemed sentimental.
In 1905 the Gallery relocated to the Executive Building (Land Administration Building) in George Street followed in 1931 to the Exhibition Building Concert Hall at Gregory Terrace. In 1969 the South Bank site was purchased for the development of the permanent Gallery building and in 1975 moves to temporary premises in M.I.M building, Ann Street before permanently settling in South Bank.
Executive Building (Land Administration Building)
Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank
The Queensland Art Gallery at South Bank was designed by architect Robin Gibson AO (1930–2014), the building still admired since its opening on 21 June 1982, winning The Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture the same year, recognised as Australia’s leading award for public buildings. Gibson looked to modernist international precedents to design the Gallery and surrounding Queensland Cultural Centre that has since become integral to Brisbane’s identity.
The Silver Jubilee Fountain
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 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, it was keen to have her visit the Cultural Centre site even though only preliminary site works would have been completed.
Robin Gibson had worked for leading British architect Sir Hugh Casson in the 1950s, and he sought his opinion about what would be appropriate. Casson advised that the Queen would be reluctant to just lay a foundation stone, so 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.
The Fountain was a triangular shape with 30 large pipes that shot water high into the air, and at night it lit up the city skyline with more than 90 lights. It quickly became a landmark in front of the Gallery until it was decommissioned in 1985.
South Bank Opening Acquisition
As part of the opening function of the Cultural Centre Jubilee celebrations, a new acquisition for the Queensland Art Gallery was officially unveiled – Young woman in a fur wrap (after Titian) c.1629-30 by Peter Paul Rubens, made possible through a gift by the Gallery’s Foundation. Young woman in a fur wrap is one of the Gallery’s most important old master works and is a copy after Titian’s work Girl in a fur wrap now in the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna.
For northern painters of the sixteenth century, the work of the Italians was a necessary course of study. One travelled to see and study and copy these objects at close quarters. Rubens’s copies were more than slavish imitation however, his talent and mastery of his medium was accomplished and confident when he experienced their work in Italy, Spain and England.
Rubens, like Titian was a court painter to kings, dukes and princes in Italy, Spain and England, he studied and copied the work of many Italian painters, though it was Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, 1488–1576) that Rubens appeared to have held a particular fascination and admiration. At the time of Rubens’s death in 1640 there were 33 copies of Titian’s works in addition to eight paintings and two sketches by the Venetian master in the inventory of Rubens’s estate.
Young woman in a fur wrap anticipates the sensuality of his late works, he is unable to resist endowing the Titianesque beauty with that slightly quizzical inviting glance that so often marks his women, Rubens has changed the face, and in particular the eyes and there are significant differences when the two paintings are closely compared. As well, the girl in our painting bears some family resemblance to Rubens’s second wife Hèléne Fourment.
Titian inspired Rubens to paint a tribute of love and tenderness that he kept until his death and stated in his will that it not be put up for sale. He left it to his wife Hèléne, too intimate a work to be sold to another. But, of course, it was.
Gallery of Modern Art
Only 150 metres apart, the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art are two vibrant architectural sites, the two galleries each with their own distinct personalities.
In July 2002, Sydney-based company Architectus was commissioned by the Queensland Government following an Architect Selection Competition, to design the Gallery’s second site.
On 1 December 2006 the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) opens with ‘The 5th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT5); and a new Robin Gibson-designed entry from Stanley Place opens at the Queensland Art Gallery to connect both buildings.
Now Queensland’s premier visual arts institution, the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), connects people and art through a dynamic program of Australian and international exhibitions that showcase works from a diverse range of historical and contemporary artists.
Enriching the cultural life of Brisbane, these two galleries offer distinct, yet complementary experiences. Glimpses of Brisbane and the river that flows past continue to anchor you to the subtropical city from inside each gallery. Both riverside galleries are now home to more than 17 000 artworks, a globally significant collection of contemporary art from Australia, Asia and the Pacific, built over the past 125 years.
Additional supplementary material by Elliott Murray, Senior Digital Marketing Officer QAGOMA, sourced from archival material in the QAGOMA Research Library.
Australia’s most outstanding concrete public architectural works have recently been chosen from a judging panel comprising some of Australia’s best-known architects and building experts with Robin Gibson’s Queensland Art Gallery among Australia’s top 10 most outstanding and distinctive architectural landmarks in Australia. The structures selected from a list of 45 nominations based on architectural merit, innovation in the use of concrete and exemplar of time.
Gibson’s vision of Brisbane celebrating its river changed the face of the city’s South Bank waterfront, with the Gallery winning the Sir Zelman Cowan Award for the most outstanding public building in Australia when it opened in 1982.
The other nine structures, many modernist in style are Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House; Australia Square Tower by Harry Seidler and Associates; Roy Grounds Australian Academy of Sciences’ Shine Dome in Canberra; the High Court building in Canberra; Sydney’s Punchbowl Mosque; the Melbourne University Carpark; the Gladesville Bridge in Sydney (which was the longest single-span concrete bridge in the world when it was built in 1964); the Victorian State Offices, and James Cook University Library in Townsville.
The selection was based on three criteria: Architectural Merit (the form, function and structure of the building); Innovation in the use of concrete as a material, as a structure, and aesthetically; and finally, Exemplar of the time, which determined whether the project redefined and expanded concrete’s potential.
The publication of the Top 10 List marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the organisation that represents the heavy construction materials industry, Cement Concrete & Aggregates Australia (CCAA), August 26, 2019
Elliott Murray is Senior Digital Marketing Officer, QAGOMA
Featured image: Queensland Art Gallery / Photograph: Richard Stringer
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art stands and recognise the creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.