Bringing form to life

Sculpture has always played a central role at the Memorial. In 1918 Charles Bean proposed the creation of “picture models”, three-dimensional illustrations that combined painting and modelling. He hoped that these works, now known as dioramas, would provide a vivid and emotive account of the First World War.

  1. What is happening in this work? How useful is Lone Pine as a source of information about the battle?

The first diorama to be completed depicted a scene from the attack on Mont St Quentin in France on 1 September 1918. It was first put on temporary display at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne in 1922.

  1. Who might have seen this work at that time? What impact might it have had on them?

The original background of Mont St Quentin was painted by Louis McCubbin, and then repainted by another artist, George Browning, first in 1947 and again 40 years later. The current background is a digital animation created by contemporary artist Arlo Mountford. Spanning eight hours, the animation is intended to reflect the weather on the day of the attack.

  1. Do these changes affect the reliability of this diorama as a source? Why or why not?
  1. Select a battle, and search the Australian War Memorial’s collection for related photographs, records, interviews, and film footage. Based on your research, use recycled materials to make a three-dimensional diorama re-creating one aspect of the battle.

As well as their work on the dioramas, some artists sought other opportunities to make more formal sculptures. Depicting an Australian soldier on Gallipoli, Wallace Anderson’s Evacuation was the first sculpture acquired for the Memorial’s art collection.

  1. What words would you use to describe this soldier? Why might Wallace have portrayed him in this way? Are there any other clues that help you to determine the purpose of this work?

The collection also includes the work of sculptors that capture a very different experience of war. In 1917 English artist Clare Sheridan created Woman leading blind solder, after noticing an Australian soldier, Trooper Ernest Matheson, walking through Regent’s Park in London. Ernest had been rendered blind by wounds he had received in the battle of Lone Pine, and Clare had been captivated “by the way he walked alone, with head held high and an inspired expression on his face”.

  1. Create an imagined dialogue between the two subjects in Clare’s work: where might they be walking? What might they be talking about? How might they be feeling?

Clare Sheridan, Woman leading blind soldier (1917, plaster, 45.5 x 22.5 x 12 cm, AWM ART19568)

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