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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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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