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Barbara Tribe

1913 – 2000

Barbara Tribe was born in Sydney, where she enrolled at East Sydney Technical College at the age of fifteen. Having studied with Rayner Hoff, in 1935 she became the first woman and the first sculptor to win the New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship. When her scholarship expired she persuaded the director of Selfridges department store to let her create portrait busts on a modelling stand in the China and Porcelain Department. Later, she worked on the Australian Wool Pavilion at the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow, modelling a merino ram that was repeated as a frieze around the exhibit. Throughout the war she remained in England, working in the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments; afterwards she moved to Cornwall, where she taught part-time at the Penzance School of Arts for forty years. Returning to Sydney for a visit in 1966 she found her achievements forgotten, but over the 1990s the Sydney collector and art patron John Schaeffer AO helped to revive her Australian and international reputation and subsidised the publication Barbara Tribe: Sculptor (2000) by Patricia McDonald. Tribe’s portrait sculptures are represented in the Australian War Memorial and the National Gallery of Australia as well as the National Portrait Gallery, which acquired her bust of Stanley Bruce in 2000; busts of Birdwood and Frank McIlwraith by gift of the estate in 2009; and her bust of Joan Redshaw in 2016.

Updated 2018