Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931) was the most successful Australian artist of his time, and is still arguably the best known of Australia’s sculptors. Working mostly in Europe from 1882, Mackennal was influenced by Symbolist, Art Nouveau, and new Classicist tendencies as well as the British New Sculpture movement. Sculptors such as Alfred Gilbert and Auguste Rodin had a profound effect upon Mackennal, who was to establish an international reputation as a virtuoso modeller of mythological and allegorical nudes.
Throughout his career, Mackennal executed many private works and public monuments, and with the patronage of King George V became a leading civic sculptor in Britain, running two studios in London at the height of his career. He was the first Australian to be elected an associate of the British Royal Academy, and the only Australian to be elected to full Royal Academy membership, and the first to be knighted.
Although an expatriate, Mackennal maintained close links with Australia through civic and private commissions. His status as a ‘cultural hero’ for Australians had a significant impact on the growth and directions of sculpture in this country.
Mackennal, the first Australian sculptor to have achieved an international reputation, has not yet been the subject of a major retrospective. The Bertram Mackennal exhibition brings together over 50 sculptures and maquettes from public and private collections throughout Australia and abroad.