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Sir Edward Holden
, 1945

by Leslie Bowles

cast bronze on granite base (including base: 43.0 cm x 20.0 cm depth 24.0 cm)

Sir Edward Wheewall Holden (1885–1947) was an industrialist and politician. During the Boer War his family’s Adelaide saddlery business won large contracts, and after 1909 it branched into motor-body trimming. Holden’s Motor Body Builders Ltd was formed in 1917, after Edward Holden designed a prototype standard body for imported chassis. With Holden as its managing director, Holden’s grew exponentially, and in 1923 the firm began producing bodies for the American-owned General Motors. Holden oversaw its expansion to a huge plant at Woodville, SA, incorporating the latest in automated technology. In 1931 GM bought the company – undertaking to maintain its Australian character – and Holden became chairman of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd until 1934, resigning from the company in 1947. Serving as a Liberal member of the Legislative Council from 1935 to 1947, Holden was appointed honorary controller of army canteens throughout World War II. He was knighted in 1945. Thereafter he continued his corporate service with bodies including the South Australian Industries Assistance Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce and the Bank of Adelaide. Holden’s energetic contribution to public life was perpetuated by his daughter Nancy (later Dame Nancy Buttfield), the first South Australian woman in an Australian parliament.

Leslie Bowles(1885–1954), sculptor, was born in Sydney and began his studies in modelling and carving in Brisbane. In 1910 he won a McConnell scholarship to study at the South London School of Sculpture and the Royal Academy School. After serving in the Royal Tank Corps in France from 1914 to 1919, Bowles returned to Australia in 1924. Here, alongside a number of other artists, he was employed by the Australian War Memorial on the production of dioramas depicting aspects of World War I. From 1925 to 1931 Bowles was head sculptor of the modelling section at the Memorial.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Bequest of John J Holden 2005
Accession number: 2005.95