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Rt Hon. Sir Robert Menzies, c. 1962

Victor Greenhalgh

cast bronze (including base: 40.8 cm x 22.5 cm depth 25.0 cm)

Rt Hon. Sir Robert Gordon Menzies KT AK CH PC QC (1894-1978) was Prime Minister of Australia for a record total of 19 years: from 1939 to 1941 and 1949 to 1966. Born in Jeparit, Victoria, Menzies attended school in Ballarat and studied at Melbourne University, where he gained a reputation as a brilliant speaker. Following early success at the Bar and in state politics, he entered Federal parliament in 1934. He became Prime Minister in 1939 as leader of the United Australia Party, but bitter divisions led to his resignation and the disintegration of the UAP. From the back benches, Menzies founded the Liberal Party, which he led from 1944 to 1966. As Prime Minister through a period of remarkable national prosperity, Menzies cultivated the USA as a 'powerful friend', furthering the two nations' economic and military ties. A staunch monarchist, he was invested as a Knight of the Thistle and succeeded Winston Churchill as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports from 1965 to 1978.

Victor Greenhalgh, sculptor and teacher, studied at the Ballarat School of Mines and the Workingmen’s College, Melbourne (later RMIT). He taught briefly at the Bendigo School of Mines, and for ten years from 1927 he taught at the Ballarat School of Mines. In 1938 his commissioned statue of King George V was unveiled in the main street of Ballarat. Having spent World War 2 as a director of camouflage, from 1955 to 1965 he was head of the school of art at RMIT. Between 1959 and 1974 he made busts of Scullin, Forde, Menzies, Holt, McEwen, Gorton, McMahon and Whitlam for the Avenue of Prime Ministers in Ballarat’s Botanic Gardens. The three works by Greenhalgh in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery were studies for, or casts of, Ballarat’s prime ministerial busts.

Menzies’s bust was donated to the National Portrait Gallery by Lady Bunting, known as Peg, whose husband, Sir John Bunting, was assistant secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department from 1949 to 1953 and secretary to the cabinet from 1959 to 1975. Menzies described Bunting as the ‘prince of public servants’. Bunting was removed from the post of head of the Prime Minister’s Department by John Gorton in 1968, but kept the post of secretary to the cabinet. He returned to head the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet under William McMahon in 1971. From 1975 to 1977 he was Australia’s high commissioner in London. In retirement, he wrote RG Menzies – A Portrait (1988).

Victor Greenhalgh, an influential sculptor and teacher, was commissioned to sculpt the King George V statue in Ballarat, as well as the eight portrait busts of Australian Prime Ministers which line the Avenue of Prime Ministers in that city's Botanical Gardens.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Donated by Lady Bunting in honour of Sir John Bunting and the Menzies Foundation 1999
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program

Accession number: 1999.60

Currently on display: Gallery One (Marilyn Darling Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Victor Greenhalgh (age 62 in 1962)

Sir Robert Menzies KT AK CH LLM QC (age 68 in 1962)

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