Bas-relief Bronze Sculptures


Sale, Victoria:



Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale


The Gippsland Art Gallery has in storage six bronzes by Annemieke of historically important Gippslanders, collectively called the Wall of Fame. These were commissioned by the Sale City Council and were completed in the mid 1980s. Each bronze is about 1 x 1 metre. Each bronze depicts important aspects of the subjects life and achievements.
Annemieke is grateful to Mr Peter Synan (historian) for his help with research and advice.

The six bronzes can be viewed by arrangement with the Gippsland Art Gallery (phone 03 51423500 email




1. MARY GRANT BRUCE (1878-1958)

Well known Australian author, Mary Grant Bruce, was born in Sale in 1878, where her father was a surveyor.

She is particularly remembered for her Billabong series and other works for children, but she also wrote many newspaper articles and columns and, during the war, many radio broadcasts.

Her work provided a major contribution towards building an Australian self-image. Country life and the Australian bush featured largely in her works, often based on her experiences at family properties in Gippsland.

Her best known works - the Billabong series - inspired the shape of the bronze which honours one of Sale’s most famous daughters.

The house depicted represents her birthplace on the Sale-Maffra Road.

The trees, River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), symbolise the ancient trees which grew in this district, as well as the Australian bush which Mary Grant Bruce wrote about so lovingly. A few of these old trees still remain on the property and along the roadside to Maffra. The gum leaves, blossoms, nuts and buds are the same, now-threatened, species. The eaten-out holes represent the devastation occurring today, with intense insect decimation to single trees as the tree numbers decline.

"Possum", one of Mary Grant Bruce’s books about a wild, unfeminine, good as a man, 16-year-old girl, is represented with the East Gippsland Feathertail Glider (Acrobates pygmaeus).

Mary Grant Bruce also travelled widely - all over Gippsland, Victoria and Europe - gaining ideas for her stories: her proclivity to be a wanderer is reflected by the Wanderer or Monarch Butterfly being eyed by the possum.

An open book engraved with an Art Nouveau ‘B’ for Bruce, lists her 38 children’s books.

2. ALLAN McLEAN (1840-1911)


The chains of political office formed the inspiration for the design of the bronze of distinguished Gippsland parliamentarian Allan McLean.

A Scottish immigrant, he held many significant positions in public life, including that of Premier of Victoria, 1899-1900.



The cameo-style frames contain 15 images from his life, while seven open links suggest the unknown, less public facets.

The highly polished oval frames form a decorative Scottish hat or kilt brooch, with the House of Representatives mace forming the pin to the brooch.

Symbolising McLean’s national involvement in politics, it runs dominantly through the axis of the design.



The appearance of the chain as loosely joined, apparently ready to change shape, is how the artist defines politics.

The first oval portrays the windjammer which brought McLean to Australia in 1842.


Next are the Thistle, floral emblem of McLean’s Scotland, and his family kilt brooch featuring Duart Castle and the motto “Virtue Mine Honour”, followed by the Heath, floral emblem of Victoria, where McLean settled and gave so much to politics.


The steam train is a reference to his work as Local Member to obtain the extension of rail services to Gippsland in general, and to his own electorate of Gippsland North in particular.


President of Maffra Beet Sugar Company, he also ran his own stock and station agency which boasted numerous branches.


The gracious house is Duart, the home he built in McLean St., Maffra (now backpacker accommodation). The four emblems surrounding his portrait refer to his public life. Member for Gippsland North in the Legislative Assembly from 1880-1900, he was leader of the Country Party and served 11 months as Premier.


Following Federation, he was elected to represent Gippsland in the House of Representatives, serving from 1901 to 1906. A foundation Councillor and Shire President of the Shire of Maffra, he helped form the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).





The multi-talented Alfred William Howitt made an outstanding contribution to early Gippsland, encouraging settlement and providing an understanding of its natural resources.


His influence during Gippsland’s early days has inspired Annemieke to choose the egg shape for this bronze, recalling the beginning of the region’s discovery and westernisation.


Howitt, a public servant, served Gippsland as a police magistrate and gold warden. However, his incredible talents have reserved his place in history as an explorer, naturalist, scientist and anthropologist as well.


From his right shoulder roll balls of wattle, symbolising his massive contribution to the colony’s botanical knowledge. Commonly known as Sticky Wattle, the plant is a native of East Gippsland and is named after Howitt - Acacia howittii.

Clinging to the last leaf is a Christmas Beetle (Anaplognathus chlorophyrus ), representing Howitt’s prediction (being witnessed today) of the devastation these beetles (larvae) would cause with extensive land clearing for farming.

The lizard forms a window effect reflecting Howitt’s open mind on all issues, as well as his interest in wildlife.

Found in all our rivers and water ways throughout Gippsland is the Eastern Water Dragon or Physignathus lesurii howittii, again named after Howitt.


The gold panner, with his highly polished “find”, works from a curve of large rocks, which breaks the regular outline of the oval frame.Howitt’s prime hobby as a geologist provided a well-documented record of his discoveries, while as leader of a government prospecting party, he was instrumental in the establishment in 1860 of the important Crooked River goldfields.


Howitt studied the Gippsland Aboriginals, their behaviour, customs and language. He wrote many papers on their needs and assimilation problems with great empathy, which was unusual for his time.


The background mountains are those in Gippsland he crossed on foot and horseback. He was a skilled bushman and an instinctive survivor.


Some of the many qualities of an incredible man who demonstrated foresight, understanding, tenacity, kindness and a love for adventure, are depicted in Annemieke’s portrait of Howitt.




4. ANGUS McMILLAN (1810-1865)


Angus McMillan was the first explorer to enter East Gippsland.


The design depicts some of the conflicts between today’s values and those of last century, particularly in relation to McMillan's widely-believed role in the murders of Gippsland aboriginal people.


The saddle pack deliberately reveals the outline of two human skulls; a direct reference to the sad loss of many of our Gippsland Aboriginal people. Note that this saddle pack is the dominant feature in the McMillan design. It is my statement denouncing McMillan's actions.


McMillan had a loyalty to all Scotsmen and championed the cause of Scottish settlers.

The dominance of the thistle, the Scottish national floral emblem, over the Gippsland gum-nuts, enforces this nationalism and the lack of any attempt at assimilation, then the accepted attitude.


The McMillan clan crest depicts two hands to the sword in a most aggressive pose, with the motto “Miseris Succerrere Disco” - literally (ironically) ‘to help the less fortunate'.


Other features of the design. The grass symbolises McMillan’s search for new pastures. The sheep and cattle skulls represent the thousands of animals he was responsible for, both as Macalister’s manager and as a pastoralist in his own right. They also reflect the harshness of the times with isolation, loneliness and death, and few rewards. Such was McMillan’s own experience: he was virtually penniless at his death.


The horseshoes denotes his fondness for horses and the enormous distances he covered on horseback, as well as recalling his death, recorded as due to injuries sustained in a fall from his horse at Iguana Creek.


The horse-neck water pack. an essential item for the vast distances McMillan travelled, also symbolises his reputed love for alcohol (whisky) and his reputation as a very generous host.


Not shown in the photograph are some detached Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) gum blossoms and leaves that flow down the wall and rest alone, just as McMillan lived and died in Gippsland.





Sale’s first Mayor, Nehemiah Guthridge, is portrayed as a seaman in acknowledgement of his contribution to the development of shipping in Gippsland. The bronze also highlights his business acumen, his service to local government and his dedication to town beautification.



Guthridge, in seaman’s hat, sou-wester and allweather coat, is depicted in a typical seaman’s stance. This is a reference to his work in establishing the first effective, regular shipping service between Melbourne and the Gippsland Lakes. Standing with hand at brow, he has a pensive but strong expression.



The anchor is also a symbol of the sea and shipping, with the dominance of this feature reflecting the strength his shipping service gave the community at a time of poor and irregular communications with the rest of the colony. On the anchor are three symbols: the plain cross because he helped establish the Wesleyan Church in Sale; the horse shoe in reference to his occupation listed in 1862, when he first arrived in Sale, as ironmonger; and the coach because his family established a coach-building firm.


The Borough of Sale emblem, with the swan symbol retained to this day by the local council, marks his role as a councillor and as Sale’s first mayor in 1863.


Guthridge’s interest in native flora and fauna are also obvious from the design.



Lake Guthridge, named in his honour, and other local rivers and lakes, are common habitats for the Eastern Snake-Necked tortoise, captured as it breaks through the water with a loving look at Guthridge.



The Gippsland native, Banksia serrata, is a reference to his work in helping to establish the Sale Botanical Gardens in the 1860s, recently restored on the site in Guthridge Parade. The Banksia is shown in full cycle with bud, full bloom and seed pods as well at its typical saw edged leaves.



The wheat represents the Guthridge family’s phase as grain merchants, an industry which diversified and strengthened the community’s independence.




6. ADA CROSSLEY (1871-1929)


The internationally famous singer, Ada Crossley, was born at Tarraville, Gippsland and grew up in the Yarram district. She studied in Melbourne and Europe and achieved recognition as a contralto with a special gift for oratorio.


The importance of music in her life is expressed in the use of the cello as the basis for the external shape. This is enhanced by the juxtaposition at a variety of angles of the bass clef dots and all. The treble clef also symbolises music, its dominance immediately and simply conveying Ada’s vocation. The delicate fluting, revealing the wall behind, gives a light and spacious feel to a highly detailed design. This very decorative Art Nouveau design also is in keeping with the singer’s era.


Ada’s full length portrait is taken from a cover picture on one of her programs. Her dress features an ornate bodice finished with appliqué, beading and embroidery, while the form-fitting skirt is seen to billow out to accentuate other features of the bronze.


The coin-like portrait of Queen Victoria represents Ada’s command performances; she gave five performances before the Queen in two years.


The flannel flowers found in Gippsland convey Ada’s love for flowers, particularly Australian wildflowers, and were also used on one of her programs.


In 1903 Ada returned to Gippsland as part of a triumphant concert tour of Australia, This included a concert in Victoria Hall, Sale, depicted at the top of the bronze. The costumes and horseriders set the era at the Hall, which is still standing today. “Home Sweet Home” was one of the songs presented at that concert and is said to have “brought the roof down.” Always sung at Ada’s Australian concerts, it is featured on the music sheet in the bronze. Although a very simplified version, it can actually be played from the music sheet.




Saint Mary's Cathedral (Sale)


MARY McKILLOP (1842 - 1909)


Size: 107(h) x 116(w) cm.

Annemieke was commissioned by Bishop Jeremiah Coffey, the former Catholic Bishop of Sale to produce a bas-relief bronze sculpture of Mary McKillop in 1994.The bronze was completed in 1995, shortly after her beatification. It is displayed in Saint Mary's Cathedral, Sale. She was canonised to sainthood in 2010 and is known as Saint Mary of the Cross McKillop.


The bronze is in two parts, flowing down the wall in the shape of a 'J'. Mary McKillop founded the Josephite order which have three J's in their emblem (standing for Jesus, Joseph and John the Baptist).


The face of Mary depicts her when she was about 40 years old and shows the head slightly tilted and capturing her sense of loving, endearment and humbleness. Her face is surrounded by the veil to enhance the qualities of saintliness, serenity and sensitivity.


The Josephite emblem is displayed prominently - a cross and the three J's.


Incorporated into the bronze is a relic of Mary's cedar coffin (embedded in resin) and placed at the position of Mary's heart.


To depict Mary's Australian roots, gum leaves together with gum nuts and blossom from the eucalypt species Southern Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus ) were portrayed in bas-relief and also 'flowing' down the wall.


In the lower part of the design, the books, papers and documents portray her dedication to education and social welfare, as do the figures of children holding Mary's hands and being guided by her (shown on the cover of one of the books). A bible with a simple cross embossed on the front honours her religion and code of living.


Coincidentally, the finished colour of the bronze sculpture closely resembles the brown habits worn by the Josephites, who were commonly called 'Brown Joeys'.





Bendigo, Victoria.



St Kilian's Church

181 McCrae St., Bendigo. Victoria, Australia



HENRY BACKHAUS D.D. (1812 - 1882)

Size: 140(h) x 105(w) cm



Annemieke was commissioned by the Bishop of Sandhurst in 1987 for this bas-relief bronze sculpture of Dr Henry Backhaus. It was completed in 1988. It now hangs in the grounds of St Kilian's Church in Bendigo.

Dr Backhaus was a pioneer priest on the goldfields around Bendigo. He was also an astute businessman and acquired considerable wealth, which he left to the Catholic Church. His estate continues to have significant influence in Bendigo to this day.

A dominant feature of the design is the cross, standing tall over the left shoulder of Backhaus. His costume features the 'Roman Collar' that was new to Catholic priests between 1840 and 1850. The books, papers and documents reflect his valuable contribution to Catholic education and excellent book-keeping of church records of marriages, births, baptisms and deaths. The books include The Roman Missal for the Celebration of Mass (in Latin), a Register of Baptisms, and a book labelled 'MUSIC by Dr H. Backhaus' signifying his numerous church music compositions.


Seven cornflowers(one for each decade of his life) and their foliage are included. Cornflowers are the Floral Emblem of Germany. Backhaus was born in Paderborn, Germany. The City of Paderborn's Crest (or Stadtwappen) is also shown. The Coat-of-Arms of the City of Sandhurst (now called Bendigo) is included to reflect Backhaus's enormous influence on religion, education, culture, business and investments in Bendigo.


The statue of St. Kilian is included because Backhaus dedicated his first church in Bendigo to this Irish monk in recognition of his Irish flock.


The keys portrays Backhaus's call to the church.


The national emblem of India reflects the 10 years Backhaus spent in India as a missionary priest (1836 - 1846). The waratah clebrates Backhaus's arrival in Sydney in 1846, and the Sturt Desert Pea his time in South Australia 1847 - 1852.


Pink heath is the floral emblem of Victoria and is found around Bendigo where Backhaus was priest until his death in 1882. The heath is shown cascading from beneath the papers symbolising the far-reaching consequences and legacy that he left for the future.



Gum leaves are included to represent the Australian bush where Backhaus spent much of his time around Bendigo.


Two money pouches are portrayed. The open one reflects Backhaus's generosity to the poor and for education and the church. The closed one symbolises his careful husbandry of assets for future financial needs.

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