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Daphne Mayo

Olympian

Daphne Mayo | Australia 1895–1982 | Olympian c.1946, cast after 1958 | Bronze | 94.5 x 31.5 x 23 cm | Acc. 1:1693 | Purchased 1979 | © Surf Lifesaving Foundation and The United Church in Australia Property Trust (Q.)

Olympian c.1946, cast after 1958

In her 1942 essay, ‘Let there be sculpture’, Daphne Mayo wrote that the human body ‘is a superlative piece of sculpture’. Of her works inspired by the human form, Olympian best illustrates her view.

There are two versions of this work: an earlier version acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria’s Felton Bequest in 1949 and this later version, originally called Girl walking. The versions differ slightly in the placement of the head, in the way that the limbs are cut off, and in the patination. The truncated form that Mayo uses here, evoking classical statuary, was favoured by the French sculptors Aristide Maillol (1861−1944) and Charles Despiau (1874−1946), whose work Mayo had admired during her overseas travels in 1938−39. Olympian is closely related to Maillol’s bronze torso ‘Ile de France’ (1919) in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Olympian had its genesis in the earlier sculpture ‘Torso of a dancer’, shown among Daphne Mayo’s works in the ‘Three Sculptors’ exhibition at David Jones’ Art Gallery, Sydney in 1946, suggesting that the figure is a dancer rather than an athlete. The model was identified as Billie Carlton, later Mrs G.S. Starr of Sydney.