Hall of Memory - The Artist

Napier Waller (right) supervising the fixing of the first mosaic tiles in 1955; with him are Aldo Rossi (left) and Severino de Marco.

Napier Waller (1893–1972) left school at the age of 14 to work on the family farm, before moving to Melbourne in 1913 to study drawing and painting. He enlisted in August 1915 and served with the 111th Howitzer Battery, 4th Division.

In May 1917 at Bullecourt he lost his right arm. During his convalescence, he learned to write and draw with his left hand: “an artist draws with his head, not his hands,” he said. In 1937, Waller was chosen to create the decorative elements in the Hall, and began designing the stained-glass windows, which were installed from 1947 to 1950.

He worked on the mosaics from 1955 to 1958. Over six million tesserae were attached to sheets of paper by his art students and war widows in Melbourne, creating one of the largest single mosaics in the world. Despite having only one arm, Waller was actively involved in the entire process.

See items from our Collection about Napier Waller
The Hall under construction, 1940. The outer wall and inner walls will support the dome, and sandstone cladding is being applied on the right.
Read about the stained glass windows in the Hall of Memory