Commemorative Medallion : The Awakening of Australian Art

Place Oceania: Australia
Accession Number RELAWM14881
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medallion
Place made Australia
Date made 1907
Conflict Period 1900-1909

Bronze medallion showing, on the obverse, in relief, a naked young woman standing on rocks above the sea, with the sun rising in the background. Around the circumference in raised letters are the words 'THE AWAKENING OF AUSTRALIAN ART'. Below the woman's feet in small impressed letters is the name 'DORA OHLFSEN' and the date '1907'. On the reverse of the medallion is a pastoral scene showing a flock of grazing sheep accompanied by a mounted horseman. The words 'DORA OHLFSEN 1907' are repeated in small impressed letters at the bottom of the image. The word 'BRONZE' is impressed into the rim.

History / Summary

This medallion was part of a collection of British and foreign war medals and of British and French commemorative medallions and plaques, assembled by the Hon. Sir Thomas Hughes, M.L.C.

The medallion was designed in Rome by expatriate Australian sculptor Dora Ohlfsen (full name Adela Dora Ohlfsen-Bagge), who spent most of her working life in Italy. She was best known in Australia for creating the 'Anzac Medal' which was sold for charity after the war.

'The awakening of Australian art', created in 1907, gained Ohlfsen international recognition. Exhibited in Paris, it was acquired by the French government for the Petit Palais. It received an award at the Franco-British exhibition in London in 1908.

In the 1920s Ohlfsen became an enthusiast for the Fascist movement in Italy, and produced a large number of works influenced by its ideology, including a medallion of Benito Mussolini in 1922. After the fall of fascism, Ohlfsen was left without work. She was given some assistance by protecting powers during the war but later had to sell some of her possessions.

Her death in Rome in 1948, with her partner of over 50 years, Russian aCountess Hélène de Kuegelgen due to gas leak in their apartment studio, was ruled an accident but there was speculation it was suicide.