Thursday, May 21, 2015

Conservation recognition and the Gilbert Doble story

I blogged a few weeks ago about the Marrickville Winged Victory conservation project and I am delighted to report that our work won a National Trust Heritage Award at last Wednesday’s Award presentations.

What is interesting about the project is that we still have not worked out how Gilbert Doble made his sculptures. A local Marrickville lad, he was clearly a bit of an oddball. At a time when any significant bronze foundry work had to be sent to England, he developed a home grown electro-deposition process that he perfected himself in his own studio in his back garden in Marrickville. Even after we have been intimately involved with the Winged Victory we still can’t quite work out how he did it.
The Winged Victory conservation team inspecting the sculpture 

The interesting thing is that, despite the failure of his Winged Victory sculpture (it only lasted 40 years before coming apart at the seams and needing to be brought down for safety reasons), his other public sculptures have lasted well. These include the Evans Memorial in Bathurst, notable according to the local guidebook for “its respectful depiction of an Aboriginal man crouched at Evans' knee - representing one of the Aboriginals who acted as a guide for Evans on his surveys.” 

George Evans Memorial, Bathurst

As well as Winged Victory, Doble was also commissioned to undertake two other memorials, for Wellington and Pyrmont. At a time when war memorials were either a block of stone or had a soldier atop them, his approach was distinctive, avoiding the militaristic nature of such and concentrating on the mix of grief and motherly support to the fallen that his female figures depicted.

Wellington Cenotaph, NSW

Pyrmont War Memorial

A fun side story of this project is that it has all been filmed as part of a 5 part documentary on the Australian War Memorial called 'The Memorial: Beyond the Anzac legend' put together by the Eye Works team for the History Channel. Neil Oliver (he of ‘Coast’ fame) fronted the cameras and kept us all entertained with his charming Scottish accent. 

The Winged Victory conservation team with Neil Oliver

And while we are on awards, I will just slip in that we also won a Highly Commended for our work on the Sydney Town Hall Air Raid Shelter signIt was a good day for recognition of expert conservation practice.

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