From the 1890s to 1910s, Melbourne born figurative sculptor Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931) became the most internationally successful artist that Australia had produced. He was also the first Australian artist to be elected a member of the British Royal Academy; the first to have work purchased for the Tate, and the first to be knighted (1921). As an expatriate based in London, Mackennal maintained close links to Australia and had a significant impact on the growth and directions of sculpture in this country.
Described by eminent British sculpture historian Benedict Read as 'one of the great sculptors of the period' and as 'a brilliant all round sculptor with a poetical imagination and particular elegance of style', Mackennal was part of a radically innovative movement known as the 'New Sculpture' that was influenced by Symbolist , Art Nouveau and 'neo-Florentine' tendencies. By 1910, under the patronage of George V, Mackennal had become one of the most successful civic sculptors of the era.
This exhibition is the first major retrospective of Bertram Mackennal's oeuvre. Over fifty-six domestically scaled sculptures and medallions have been sourced from national and international collections, including the Gallery's The Dancer, the National Gallery of Victoria's Circe, the Tate Gallery's The Earth and the elements and life-size figure, Diana wounded, and Sappho from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
The exhibition is accompanied by the first major monograph published on Bertram Mackennal. Contributions from Australian, British, American and New Zealand scholars analyse the artist's life, associations and civic and domestic output. In addition, a fully illustrated catalogue raisonné of Mackennal's sculptures on CD-ROM (attached to the publication) presents the fruits of concentrated research on the artist's career as both a civic sculptor in Britain and Australia, and as the creator of exceptional portraits and sculptural nudes on a domestic scale.
After exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales 'Bertram Mackennal' will travel to Melbourne where it will be on show at the National Gallery of Victoria from 30 November 2007 to 24 February 2008.
The Fifth Balnaves Foundation Sculpture Project
Also supported by
Photograph: Bertram Mackennal with Salome. Courtesy of Pauline Kraay
Salome c1895 State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 1976
Photograph: Bertram Mackennal in his studio with Diana wounded. Courtesy of Pauline Kraay
Diana wounded 1905. Private collection
Background image: Lyric poetry 1888 (detail). Art Gallery of New South Wales. William and Mary Farnsworth Fund 1972
Circe 1893 (detail, statuette c 1902-04). Art Gallery of New South Wales. Purchased 1970
Music: Intermezzo, Mascagni from The Romantic Approach, Vol Two, A Special Collection of Classical Music from Italy and France (Celestial Harmonies 13101-2)
(P) 1995 Celestial Harmonies. Courtesy of Celestial Harmonies
Circe 1893 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne The Felton Bequest 1910