Paul MONTFORD, Memorial to youth Enlarge 1 /1


London, England 1868 – Melbourne, Australia 1938

  • Australia from 1923

Memorial to youth [Winged figure with youth; Memorial plaque to a youth with emblems of death] 1895 Place made: London, Greater London, England
Materials & Technique: sculptures, cast bronze, patinated Place Published: London

Primary Insc: signed l.r. inscribed "Paul R Montford / Sc" date stamped "9 5" (mirror image)
Dimensions: 85.0 h x 56.4 w x 14.5 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1979
Accession No: NGA 79.1346

In Memorial to youth,a beautiful young male loosens his grip on life and slides into the protective embrace of an angel and its impending kiss of death. There is an eclectic fusion of influences: a mélange of mythological and historical references, Christian and pagan symbolism, with a touch of Art Nouveau. The central composition is framed by architectural features which suggests that its placement was to be in a recess or niche in the wall of a chapel or civic building.

Paul Montford concentrated on architectural decoration or sculptural reliefs and figure groups commissioned for the facade of public buildings. Memorial to youth is indebted to this professional specialisation. It is elaborately conceived, perhaps over-embellished with imagery, as the young and ambitious sculptor parades the full repertoire of his talents. Memorial to youth presents a symbolic and universal commemoration of fallen youth and appears a shrewd manoeuvre by the sculptor to advertise his skills and suitability to prospective clients for more specific commissions.

Both the Australian sculptor Mackennal and the British-born Montford established their professional reputations in London in the 1890s. Mackennal remained there for the rest of his career whereas Montford migrated to Australia and became one of the most significant sculptors working in Melbourne between the wars. Montford trained in London with his father, the sculptor Horace Montford, and distinguished himself as a student at the Royal Academy Schools between 1887 and 1891. Memorial to youth dates from before the sculptor’s arrival in Australia and is a valuable contextual example of the near-contemporary statuettes produced in London by Australian expatriates, such as Bertram Mackennal’s Circe and Harold Parker’s Orpheus.

Steven Tonkin

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002