Lyndon Raymond Dadswell was the first sculptor to be appointed an official war artist of the Second World War. Born in Stanmore, New South Wales, he attended the Julian Ashton School from 1923 to 1925. In the following four years he was a student of the influential British sculptor and teacher Rayner Hoff at East Sydney Technical College. In 1929, at the age of 21, Dadswell worked as an assistant to Paul Montford on the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. He was responsible for the 12 sandstone panels of the inner frieze in the Shrine's interior. In 1933 he won the Art Gallery of New South Wales Wynne Prize. With a reputation as one of Australia s promising young sculptors, Dadswell travelled to London in 1935 to study at the Royal Academy. He returned to Sydney two years later to take up a teaching position at East Sydney Technical College (later the National Art School), which he continued to do intermittently until 1967.
Following the onset of the Second World War, Dadswell enlisted in the 2nd Division Australian Imperial Forces on 29 April 1940 (service no. NX13548). With the rank of acting corporal, he embarked for the Middle East on 30 August 1940 and fought with the 2/3 Battalion in Greece, Libya and Syria. On 22 June 1941 he sustained gunshot wounds to the head and left leg while fighting the Vichy French in the Syrian campaign. For several months prior to his injury, Dadswell s supporters back in Australia had been advocating the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board, the Department of Information, and the Australian War Memorial, for his appointment as an official war artist. In September 1941 Dadswell was promoted to lieutenant and commissioned as an official war artist.
Based in Cairo, Dadswell created sculptures of his war time experience serving with the Australian infantry in the Middle East. He made stand alone pieces, as with Soldier in summer dress and Bomb thrower. These works echo the heroic, but egalitarian intention of sculpture from the First World War. However Dadswell s stylistic transition is clear. Through a dramatic reduction in detail Dadswell has removed any sense of naturalism. There is a greater emphasis on the voluminous form of the human figure and depicting unified movement. Greece, a group of three soldiers of the 16th Brigade, 6th Division, demonstrates Dadswell s stylistic and symbolic intentions. He has transcended his personal sense of the futility of war to create sculptures that express great admiration for the determination and courage of the soldiers he fought alongside.
Dadswell returned to Australia in 1942, and resigned from his commission as an official artist in December. He resumed teaching, and was a major influence on the next generation of Australian sculptors. Dadswell continued to produce and exhibit his own work, and also secured several major public commissions including King George V Memorial, and the Newcastle Memorial Newcastle War Memorial Cultural Centre.