The sculptor Bertram Mackennal was born in Melbourne, Australia. He learned art from his father, then at the Melbourne National Gallery School (where Rupert Bunny was a fellow student), and came to England to study the antique at the British Museum in 1883. The following year he entered the Royal Academy Schools, but the teaching did not prove agreeable to him, and he soon left, to go to Paris. There, still aged only 19, he set up his own studio, while continuing his studies with visits to the workshops of a variety of eminent sculptors.
Back in England Mackennal became head of the art department of the Coalport Potteries in Shropshire. However, in 1887 he won a competition to provide relief carvings for the Victoria State houses of Parliament, and he spent two years back in Australia working on this commission. After rather mixed success, he achieved fame with his statue Circe in 1893. By this time he was back in London, and it was there that he settled, becoming one of the more important sculptors of his time.
Tragedy enveloping Comedy
The illustration shows a typical work by Mackennal. He specialised in rather ideal figures, often female nudes, with art nouveau-style faces, and often on complex plinths with symbolic decor. As well, he made various portrait sculptures.
An example of Mackennal's more formal portrait statues is the Edward VII in Waterloo Place, London. An excellent Boer War Memorial is in Islington. Apparently he also designed the coins of that era. He also made sculpture for Australia House (see the walk on the Strand).
Here is a detailed account of Mackennal's war sculptures in Australia.
Sculpture pages // Australian art and Britain // Other artists