1928 – 2013
I like to think that the sculptor helps in some way to bridge the gap between the material and the spiritual or aesthetic values of our time – and that there is a simple relationship between man, sculpture and their common surroundings. Norma Redpath
Norma Redpath was one of Australia’s greatest female sculptors who paved the way for future generations of artists of both genders. Born in Melbourne, to a ceramic designer (Harry Redpath) and a house wife (Dorothy Redpath), Norma completed her schooling and enrolled in painting (1943-44, 1946-48) at the Swinburne Technical College, Melbourne and later studied sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) (1949-51). Her studies were largely self-directed, aside from the acquisition of formal technical skills. She found no inspiration in the contemporary sculpture of Australia and looked further afield to the UK. There she found kindred spirits in the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and she quickly took up direct carving in wood and stone.
Post art school, Redpath worked diligently to develop her signature approach to carving. It wasn’t long before her work was recognized and acknowledged as both sophisticated and progressive by a growing group of immigrant artists such as Julius Kuhn (later Kane), Inge King and Clifford Last. Redpath was soon asked to join them in what became known as the ‘Group of Four’. She continued exhibiting with the ‘Group of Four’ (1953, 1955), which became the ‘Centre 5’ in the early sixties. The mid fifties offered her first opportunity to visit Europe. After studying Italian at the Universita per Stranieri in Perugia she took up residence in Rome. From here she would travel extensively across Europe and England, meeting Henry Moore in the process. Her time in Europe also yielded her first opportunity to have two works cast in bronze (1957). This was a major breakthrough in her approach. Upon her return to Australia, she set about carving works with the intention of reproducing them in bronze next time she was in Italy.
Another opportunity to visit Italy did not occur until early 1962 when she won an Italian government scholarship to study and work in Milan. Redpath pursued further studies at the Academia di Belle Arti di Brera, gaining foundry experience on the recommendation of her teacher, Luciano Minguzzi. It was then that she decisively turned to bronze and established a studio in Milan. The next decade would see her frequently travel between Italy and Australia.
In 1963, Redpath was given her first solo exhibition in Australia at Gallery A in Melbourne. The show was composed of 12 bronzetti (small scale bronzes) which she had made during her time in Milan. This was a very successful exhibition, both critically and financially for Redpath.
After the success of the Gallery A show she was awarded several major commissions in Australia during the 1960s and 1970s, including the Treasury Fountain in Canberra.
While back in Milan (1966-67) Redpath produced forty new bronzetti using the same processes she had learnt earlier at the foundries. These works would be shown in her second solo show in Sydney at the Rudy Komon Gallery in 1970. The show was received with the same fervour of her first solo show, in fact it lifted her profile so much that she was appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to contemporary sculpture, and soon after was offered a two-year creative arts fellowship to conduct artistic research at the Australian National University (ANU).
The bronzetti produced in 1966-67 offer a highlight in her oeuvre as they take their references from the classical architectural forms that populate Europe; the column, walls, portals, arches and the buttress. BRAG’s work Buttress Wall (1966) (featured right and included in this exhibition) was one of the 40 bronzetti in the 1970 solo show at Rudy Komon Gallery as Gwen Frolich (the purchaser and donor of the work) worked at the gallery and often purchased work from the exhibitions.
During the early seventies, Redpath shared her time between Melbourne and Italy, before marrying naval engineer Antonio de Altamer and settling in Milan, Italy in 1974. Norma and Antonio stayed in Italy for the next decade. In 1985 the couple returned to Melbourne, this time for good.
Redpath continued to make maquettes until the last years of her life and died in 2013 at the age of 85 after a long illness. Her works are represented in many of the state, regional and private collections in Australia, Italy, UK and USA.
Redpath’s legacy is a shining example for Australian sculptors, of what can be achieved in a career by an artist who won’t concede to physical, conceptual or geographical limitations. Norma Redpath is represented by Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne.
In the Sculpture Australia 69 video (11min 30 sec – 12min 6sec) Norma Redpath shares with us some ideas about forms which inform her work. Select a natural form that interests you and render it using a brush and ink.
Watch the Sculpture Australia 69 video and discuss Redpath’s process when creating large works or commissions.
Research direct and indirect bronze casting techniques and processes.
In the Sculpture Australia 69 video (11min 30 sec – 12min 6sec) Norma Redpath shares with us some ideas about forms which inform her work. Select an array of natural forms that interest you, photograph them and then render them using a brush and ink.
Research direct and indirect bronze casting techniques and processes specific to Italy.
IMAGES: Portrait: Norma Redpath, 1964. Photo: Mark Strizic National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Norma Redpath Buttress Wall 1966. cast bronze. 11 x 13 x 7 cm. Gwen Frolich Bequest. Photo: Clare Lewis.