Vale: Leonard French, OBE, and Peter Travis, AM


Signwriter turned painter Leonard French (1928–2017) passed away in January, aged 88. French was an influential artist over a career that spanned six decades, including five years in the 1960s that he spent working on a 50-colour glass ceiling for the NGV’s Great Hall — the artist’s first time working in the medium and considered one of the world’s largest stained-glass ceilings, wrote the Australian’s Arts Editor Ashleigh Wilson in a vale on 12 January.1 French also made windows for the National Library in Canberra, as well as murals and tapestries for churches, libraries and other buildings around Australia. French won the Blake Prize (twice) and the Sulman Prize in 1960. In 1968, he received an OBE for his service to painting.

Leonard French, Australia 1928-2017 / Autumn in the garden 1960 / Duco, enamel, gold leaf on hessian, mounted on composition board / Purchased 1961 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © QAGOMA

We also note the passing of Peter Travis (1927–2016) in November, aged 89. Travis — a Sydney-based ceramic artist, designer and teacher born in Manly — was working for Speedo in 1960 when his boss urged him to recreate the Hawaiian shorts (the iconic ‘budgie smugglers’) then popular overseas, wrote Ian Paterson of the Daily Telegraph.2 Just one year later, Travis left Speedo to challenge himself as an artist, having already created one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of clothing on the planet. In 2008, Peter Travis was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his work as a designer, sculptor, ceramist, kite-maker and teacher.

Peter Travis, Australia 1927-2016 / Kite construction 1982 / Mixed media / Purchased 1983 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © Estate of the artist / Photograph: Richard Stringer