An exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of Daphne Mayo, one of Queenslands most significant artists and the creator of some of Brisbanes grandest monuments, is currently on display at the Queensland Art Gallery
. Queensland Art Gallery Director Tony Ellwood said Daphne Mayo: Let There Be Sculpture is on display from November 5, 2011 to January 15, 2012 in the Xstrata Coal Queensland Artists Gallery.
This important retrospective includes ceramics, paintings, drawings and wood carvings, as well as the sculptures, for which Mayo is most celebrated, Mr Ellwood said.
The first retrospective of its kind to be mounted by a state gallery, the exhibition features over 50 of Mayos works including portrait busts, architectural ornaments, official commissions and modernist experiments.
Mr Ellwood said as well as celebrating an outstanding career that spanned over 50 years, Let There Be Sculpture also highlighted Mayos important place in the social history of Brisbane and Queensland.
Graduating from Londons Royal Academy of Arts with a gold medal for sculpture, Mayo returned to her home town of Brisbane in 1925, her trip coinciding with the formation of Greater Brisbane which in turn led to a significant building boom, he said.
Mayo was then commissioned to create some of Brisbanes grandest monuments, including the City Hall tympanum, the Sir William Glasgow statue located in Post Office Square and the Queensland Womens War Memorial in Anzac Square.
Included in this exhibition are bronze statues of Sir Matthew Nathan, Governor of Queensland 1925; William Forgan Smith, Premier of Queensland 1942; noted artist Lloyd Rees; and Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey 1958, Australias wartime Allied Land Forces commander.
Mr Ellwood said the Gallery was delighted to celebrate the life and work of one of Queenslands most significant artists, and to honour Mayos success and determination in creating cultural opportunities for her fellow Queenslanders.
Daphne Mayo was the first locally-trained sculptor to make a significant mark on Brisbane. Her highly visible public works altered the appearance of our city, while her ongoing advocacy for the visual arts in Queensland transformed the Queensland cultural landscape, he said.
Mayo enjoyed a close association with the Queensland Art Gallery as a trustee, advisor and purchaser, and was instrumental in securing some of the Gallerys most iconic contemporary Australian and European artworks,
Visitors to the exhibition are invited to follow a guide outlining some of the works in the Gallerys Collection that were acquired with Mayos assistance.
Mr Ellwood said the exhibition would feature a number of Mayos works that were rescued from the artists Sydney studio, nearly lost to a demolition order in the 1980s.
This is the first exhibtion to fully represent the diversity of Mayos output in style, subject matter and medium. We are extremely fortunate to have Dr Judith McKay as guest curator for this exhibition, as Dr McKay supervised the distribution of Mayos works from her Sydney studio in the 80s.
Co-curated by Michael Hawker, Assistant Curator, Australian Art to 1975, Queensland Art Gallery, Daphne Mayo: Let There Be Sculpture is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the work of this remarkable artist.
DAPHNE MAYO (18951982), sculptor and art advocate, was born on 1 October 1895 at Balmain, Sydney, younger child of English-born parents William McArthur Mayo, commercial traveller, and Lila Mary, née Saxelby. Early in Daphnes childhood the Mayo family moved to Brisbane where her father became superintendent of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. and her mother a well-known naturalist and nature writer. Daphne attended the Eton High School for Girls, Hamilton (later St Margarets) and probably the Brisbane Central Girls State School, ending her schooling in 1910 on account of chronic asthma. In 191113 she undertook a Diploma in Art Craftsmanship at the Brisbane Central Technical College, studying under the art master R. Godfrey Rivers and specialising in modelling under L.J. Harvey. In 1914 she was awarded Queenslands first publicly funded travelling art scholarship, sponsored by the local Wattle Day League. When her departure overseas was delayed by the outbreak of World War 1, she attended Julian Ashtons Sydney Art School and worked with the Ipswich monumental mason Frank Williams to gain experience in stone carving.
Arriving in London in 1919, Mayo attended the Royal College of Art briefly and worked as an assistant to the sculptor John Angel before entering the Sculpture School of the Royal Academy of Arts in December 1920. On graduation in December 1923 she was awarded the schools gold medal for sculpture, which carried with it the Edward Stott Travelling Studentship to Italy. She travelled to Rome with fellow art student from Brisbane, Lloyd Rees, to whom she had recently become engaged, before continuing her studies in Italy. She was planning to stay abroad until her brothers death in November 1924, resulting from a war-related illness, caused her to return to Brisbane. She arrived back home in June 1925 and, resolved on an independent career, broke her engagement with Rees.
Fêted as Queenslands girl sculptress, Mayo received large public commissions, including the Brisbane City Hall tympanum (192730), the Queensland Womens War Memorial in Anzac Square (192932) and relief panels for the original chapel at Mt Thompson Crematorium (1934). These works, ornamenting Classical Revival buildings, called for conventional treatment and were carved in situ with the help of assistants. For the largest work, the City Hall tympanum, she created a pageant of colonial conquest, The progress of civilisation in the state of Queensland. Her contract fee of ₤5750 was reportedly the highest yet received by an Australian woman artist. To mark her success she purchased land on the crest of Highgate Hill, near her childhood home; she moved her City Hall studio to the site and added a cottage.
Mayo possessed a sharp intellect and firm convictions. Her tiny frame belied enormous energy and commitment as she undertook extraordinary physical labours and zealously promoted art in Queensland.
In 1929, with her friend the painter Vida Lahey, she founded the Queensland Art Fund, which purchased works (mostly contemporary British) for the Queensland National Art Gallery (later Queensland Art Gallery). In 1930 she organised Brisbanes first important loan exhibition for almost a decade, bringing over one hundred pictures from southern states. In 1932 she was instrumental in obtaining for the gallery its first major endowment, the Godfrey Rivers Trust (in memory of her former teacher), enabling it to acquire contemporary Australian art. Initially, in 1933 and 1935, works were obtained through biennial prize exhibitions organised by Mayo. William Dobells The Cypriot was a notable acquisition in 1943; Mayo continued as buyer for the bequest until 1964. She suspended her sculptural work in 193435 to lead a successful public appeal for the £10,000 needed to secure a large bequest for art in Queensland left by wealthy Brisbane businessman, John Darnell, a seemingly impossible task during the Depression. In 1936 she and Lahey established the states first art reference library. For her public work in Queensland the Society of Artists (Sydney) awarded her its medal in 1938.
In 193839 Mayo travelled in Europe and North America to observe recent developments in art. On her return she moved to Sydney in search of a more stimulating artistic environment and to undertake a major commission for the east doors of the new Public Library of New South Wales building (194042). Opening a studio in lower George Street, she also worked speculatively on smaller modernist sculpture intended for domestic settings, and experimented with ceramics. She took part in the Society of Artists annual exhibitions until 1958 and, in 1946, with Lyndon Dadswell and Arthur Fleischmann, staged the Three Sculptors exhibition. In 1949 the National Gallery of Victorias Felton Bequest acquired her truncated torso of an athlete, The Olympian. However, little other speculative work sold and she was forced to depend again on public commissions. These included a war memorial for The Kings School, Parramatta (194853), a portrait bust of Sir Thomas Blamey for the Australian War Memorial, Canberra (195758), and The Jolly Swagman statue for the western Queensland town of Winton (1959). Becoming fatigued by the physical labours of sculpture, she sought relaxation in the gentler art of painting, taking lessons from E.A. Harvey at the East Sydney Technical College and also from Roland Wakelin.
In 1959 Mayo was appointed MBE. Returning to Brisbane, in 196164 she undertook her last major commission, a statue of Sir William Glasgow. Having been appointed (1960) the Queensland Art Gallerys first woman trustee, she resigned in 1967 with Professor R.P. Cummings, voicing her disapproval of its administration. In retirement she remained in Brisbane while maintaining her Sydney studio. She was Australias best-known woman sculptor of her generation. The University of Queensland held a retrospective exhibition of her sculpture in 1981. Never married, she died on 31 July 1982 at Brisbane and was cremated with Uniting Church forms. Daphne Mayos work is represented in public collections throughout Australia. The Queensland Art Gallery, the University of Queensland and the Museum of Brisbane hold painted self-portraits; the latter also has a portrait of her by Mary Edwards. Mayo was honoured by the naming in 1988 of an art studio at St Margarets School, and from 2003 by an annual visiting professorship in visual culture at the University of Queensland.