Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

Truth, 1894

Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931)
Height: 60.8cm

Born in Melbourne in 1863 and later studying at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, Mackennal left for England in 1882 as one of the exodus of important Australian artists to Europe. Mackennal subsequently studied at the Royal Academy School in London. It was difficult at this time to find training or make a living as an artist, especially as a sculptor in Australia. Travelling to Europe and setting up a studio in Paris, Mackennal, was advised and instructed by the famous symbolist sculptor Auguste Rodin. Mackennal exhibited his lifesize sculpture of "Circe", the mythological goddess who had the ability to turn men into animals, in Paris and London. Mackennal was forced to cover the naked figures on the sculpture's base by the Royal Academy, London in 1894. The resulting scandal made Mackennal famous.

This bronze statue of "Truth" is an allegorical sculpture. The figure of "Truth" is a young naked woman with wings holding a radiant disc in her hands against her chest. The woman is standing on the upper half of a globe. The disc symbolises the light of the sun shining to reveal the truth that lies hidden. Her wings may derive from Greek and Roman messengers of the gods like Victory who was able to descend to earth. Although "Truth" was cast in London in 1894, a statue of "Truth" was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1933 (cat. no 82), after Mackennal's death.

Bertram Mackennal had gained an international reputation and was probably Australia's leading sculptor of the late 19th and early 20th century. Mackennal received instruction from Rodin and he exhibited his acclaimed sculptures in London and Paris. The Royal Academy elected Mackennal in 1909 as the first Australian to be an Associate. He was befriended by the Prince of Wales (later becoming King George V), and knighted.

This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print.
An updated edition has been published in 2017.
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