Bertram Mackennal

Australia, England 1863–1931

Mackennal was one of the most successful of the many artists who left Australia in the late 19th century to study and work in Europe. He became a favoured royal sculptor and was commissioned to create numerous public monuments in Britain and Australia and designs for coins, medals and stamps as well as portraits of art-world luminaries including Sarah Bernhardt and Nellie Melba. He was the first Australian artist to be knighted and, in 1922, became the only Australian to be elected a full member of the Royal Academy.

The dancer, which the Gallery purchased in 1910, was the first Mackennal work bought by an Australian public gallery.

The dancer 1904

This life-size bronze cast reveals Mackennal’s skill at dealing with complex movement. Its expressive modelling and sense of life are characteristic of his work.

Based largely in London from the late 1800s, Mackennal was part of the New Sculpture movement. He was also influenced by French Symbolism and by the greatest sculptor of his day, Auguste Rodin, whom he met in Paris. He was impressed by the way Rodin took his sculptures off their pedestals, involving them in the real world and giving their gestures dramatic force.

Bertram Mackennal The dancer 1904