Making Melbourne's monuments: the sculpture of Paul Montford (1868-1938)

Catherine Moriarty

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authoredpeer-review


‘No other sculptor has left his mark so definitely on the civic landscape in Melbourne as Paul Montford. …no one can doubt the energy with which he helped give sculpture its rightful place in the scheme of things, civic and national’ wrote Basil Burdett in Art in Australia in 1938. Yet little known about this artist whose work is so conspicuous, or about the sculpture he produced in London before emigration; on the facade of the V and A, outside the Royal School of Mines, and elsewhere in the capital. Based on the recently discovered letters of the sculptor Paul Montford (1868-1938), this book re-establishes a unique connection between the sculpture of two cities and exposes the professional networks that were maintained over great distance. It is the result of four years of research in Australia and Britain that has attracted funding and fellowships from universities in both countries. The book explores the significance of sculpture in furnishing the public spaces and institutions of the city of Melbourne with commemorative portraits of exemplary Australians and memorials in honour of the war dead. The Shrine of Remembrance, the statue to Adam Lindsay Gordon in Spring Street, John Wesley in Lonsdale Street and Peter Pan at Melbourne Zoo, are all well-known landmarks that are reconnected with their London precedents in this new cross-disciplinary history. Through Montford’s revealing and engaging correspondence, readers will discover a first-hand account of the cultural life of Melbourne between the wars. The book reconsiders this artist’s role in the transformation of the civic landscape of Victoria, both urban and rural, and the part his work played in the processes of public history, of representation and denial, issues that remain central to the study of Australia’s past. This book presents in a vivid and original way, previously inaccessible archival material of great value to Australia’s cultural history and to the study of the expanded networks of British artistic practice. Located within family papers in Britain, these visual and textual sources document the professional activities and private concerns of a sculptor who played a major role in how Melbourne appears today. Paul Montford’s work raises issues of intense contemporary interest to art historians and academics in the humanities namely, commemoration, cultural memory, inter-textuality, and visual and material culture. This book offers a new perspective on the inter-war tension between art founded on European values and demands for an art integral to an Australian context. It addresses the difficulties of an English artist establishing his reputation anew, the professional jealousies this provoked within the Melbourne art scene of the 1920s, and the persistence of professional ties between Melbourne and London. Complementing its broader reach, this study also offers a unique insight into the day-to-day activities of an artist, the logistics of making sculpture, and the complex emotional locus of the home and studio. Moreover, in documenting the significance of connections with London and elsewhere, this book also addresses ideas about art as an international exchange and establishes for the first time a relationship between Montford’s sculpture in both continents. In this way, it appeals to audiences in Britain and forms part of growing academic interest in Australia-British cultural crosscurrents and exchange. It complements the large-scale University of Glasgow research project ‘Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951’ and anticipates the international extension of this work in the years ahead.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherAustralian Scholarly Publishing
Number of pages307
ISBN (Print)9781921875595
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • monument
  • Melbourne
  • sculpture
  • portrait
  • war memorial
  • studio
  • commemoration


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