b. 1926

In the history of white Australian art, there have been few exceptional stone or wood carvers. Rosemary Madigan…is one of them. Art Gallery of NSW


Portrait: Rosemary Madigan 1992 Photo: Greg Weight.

Born in Glenelg, South Australia, Rosemary Wynnis Madigan is primarily a carver and a draftsman, although she has utilized casting processes over her career.

Madigan’s study of visual art and sculpture was extensive, between her time at the East Sydney Technical College (ESTC) Sydney (1940-43 and 1947-48) and the South Australian School of Art, Adelaide (1944-46) she became a highly skilled artist.

After marrying fellow student Jack Giles in 1949 and winning a Travelling Arts Scholarship in 1950, as only the third sculptor to do so at the time, Rosemary set out on a three year exploration of Europe. While in Europe Madigan became fascinated with Romanesque sculpture which lined the churches and museums of England, France, Italy and Belgium. A trip to India also bore much inspiration. Like many other sculptors who have made the journey to Europe and England, Madigan took the opportunity to study, completing a Diploma in Fine Art (sculpture) at the John Cass College, London (1952-53) before returning home.

With her first daughter Mnemosyne now a toddler and her second daughter Celia on the way, the family decided to settle in Adelaide (her third daughter Alice was born in 1961). Madigan worked teaching pottery, sculpture and drawing at the Adelaide art school during the 1950s and 1960s. Rosemary Madigan Untitled (Bronze Figures) n.d. cast bronze. 10 x 16 x 5 cm. Gwen Frolich Bequest. Photo: Clare Lewis

At the end of her marriage to Jack Giles, Madigan returned to Sydney in 1973, where she continued to sculpt and teach at the East Sydney Technical College (ESTC) and at the Sculpture Centre. During this time she also began her creative and personal partnership with the sculptor Robert Klippel (they lived near each other but in separate houses) which would continue for many years until his death in 2001. Both artists would have an influence on each other but for the most part their sculpture remained independent, with the exception of a few joint exhibitions. The Nos 1037—1126 work which they produced together in 1995 for an Art Gallery of NSW exhibition is an excellent example of how successful their creative union was.

When Madigan won the 1986 Wynne Prize, it was the first time a sculptor had won the prize in thirty-three years. This was perhaps the pinnacle of her career.

Over the last few decades Madigan has continued to draw, paint and produce collages. Wood and stone are the source material for most of Madigan’s sculptures. The female torso is synonymous with her imagery as she has spent much of her career specialising in its exploration and depiction.

Rosemary is a proponent of the humanist tradition , a supporter of the UK school of thought on truth to material and she maintains a keen aesthetic for preserving the impact of the sculptor’s hand in a piece. She has passed on these core values to many of her students, who have in turn become the next generation of Australian sculptors.

Since 2001, Madigan has called a 40 acre property near Yass, NSW, which she shares with her daughter Alice and family, home.







Using the Untitled (Bronze Figures) (featured above and in this exhibition) as inspiration, model your own sculpture from clay.





Robert Klippel also used bronze casting to create small sculptures such as No 465 (also included in HEAVY METAL: Sculpture from the Permanent Collection). Discuss the similarities and differences between Madigan’s work Untitled (Bronze Figures) (featured above and in this exhibition) and Klippel’s work No 465.





ABC News video - Madigan discusses her approach to carving from 2 mins 12sec to 3min 29sec. Madigan continues to discuss her practice from 5min 22 sec to 6min 08 sec







After watching the video below on the Lost wax method of casting, design your own clay form and mold.










Rosemary primarily produces carvings in stone and wood. Looking at Untitled (Bronze Figures) (featured above and in this exhibition), aside from the use of bronze as a material discuss the similarities and differences in process between one of her carvings and Untitled (Bronze Figures).



IMAGES: Portrait: Rosemary Madigan 1992 Photo: Greg Weight. Rosemary Madigan Untitled (Bronze Figures) n.d. cast bronze. 10 x 16 x 5 cm. Gwen Frolich Bequest. Photo: Clare Lewis