During a meeting in 2012 with the Anzac Memorial’s senior curator and historian, Brad Manera, he told me of several WWI monuments and memorials within Hyde Park – the most surprising being my beloved Archibald Fountain.
Its full name is J F Archibald Memorial Fountain, named after J F Archibald, owner and editor of The Bulletin magazine who in 1919 bequeathed the funds to have a symbolic, open-air memorial built. Archibald specified that the fountain must be designed by a French artist, to commemorate the association of Australia and France in WWI and because of his love of French culture.
As directed in Archibald’s will, this was to commemorate the association between Australia and France during World War 1, ‘for the liberties of the world’ and was to be sculpted in bronze by a French artist. Archibald’s expressed preferences came from an acquired interest in modern French culture, which he admired for its ‘clarity of thought and resourceful originality’.
According to Wikipedia Archibald “wished Sydney to aspire to Parisian civic design and ornamentation”. The artist chosen was François-Léon Sicard, who completed it in Paris in 1926 but never actually saw the sculpture placed in Sydney. It was unveiled on 14 March 1932 by Sydney’s Lord Mayor.
According to the City of Sydney website:
The fountain “…draws its themes from Greek antiquity and is an important example in Sydney of the classical revivalist sculpture of the 1920s and 1930s, known as Art Deco.
Sicard chose a mythical theme to express his message through the medium of a fountain. Although commissioned to honour the association forged in war, the work was also to look forward to peace and Sicard allowed the peace theme to dominate. Central to his design was Apollo giving life to all nature. Apollo was surrounded by three groups of figures, the first featuring Diana bringing harmony to the world; the second, Pan watching over the fields and pastures; and the third, Theseus conquering the Minotaur, symbolic of sacrifice for the common good.”
An inscription on the St Mary’s Cathedral side reads:
“Apollo represents the Arts (Beauty and Light.) Apollo holds out his right arm as a sign of protection and spreads his benefit over all nature while he holds a lyre in his left hand. Apollo is the warmth which vivifies, giving warmth to all nature. At the touch of his ray men awake, trees and fields become green, the animals go out into the fields and men go to work at dawn.”
Francois Sicard (1862-1934) was a distinguished artist, renowned in France and best known for his work on adornments of the Louvre. Sicard won the Premier Grand Prix de Rome in 1891, awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 and became an Officier of the Legion d’Honneur in 1910.
Jules François Archibald was born in 1856 at Geelong Victoria but baptised John Feltham. He started work in the printing and press industries from age 14. Just six years later he left journalism to work as a clerk in Victorian Education Dept where he collected information on French life and culture, while also spending long hours in the company of a Breton couple where he lived.
Later clerking in Queensland and working on goldfields, he drifted to Sydney and started clerking for the Evening News, rising to the reporting staff. Archibald then went on to found The Bulletin as a joint venture with great success and having published the writings of Australian icons such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson.
J F Archibald also left a bequest to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, namely the Archibald Prize which was first awarded in 1921 and was the first major prize for portraiture in Australian art. It is awarded for "the best portrait, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in Art, Letters, Science or Politics, painted by an artist resident in Australia…”
If you would like to read more about war memorials in NSW you can go to: http://www.warmemorialsnsw.asn.au/