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Sir Robert Gibson
, 1934

by Paul Montford

cast bronze on granite base

Sir Robert Gibson GBE (1863–1934), businessman and financier, came to Australia in 1890 having worked as a designer and manager for a steel company in Glasgow and London. In Melbourne, he established the Austral Manufacturing Co and then the Lux Foundry Pty Ltd, and in 1922 became president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. Appointed Victoria’s representative on the Central Coal Board in 1916, he was deputy chairman of the Repatriation Commission from 1917 to 1920; chairman of the royal commission on public expenditure from 1918 to 1921; a member of the State Electricity Commission from 1919; and a representative on the board of Commonwealth Oil Refineries from 1920. As Chairman of the Board of the Commonwealth Bank (then Australia’s central bank), he came into conflict with Labor Prime Minister, James Scullin, whose 1931 request for increased credit for unemployment relief was refused by Gibson. Gibson was alternately celebrated and vilified for his stand. Such controversies gravely affected his health, and he died in Melbourne in January 1934.

Paul Montford came to Australia from England in 1921, attracted by the light, which he believed to be conducive to monumental sculpture. Settling in Melbourne, he soon created controversy with his avant-garde opinions about the social and environmental role of three-dimensional art. A zestful worker, in 1927 he was commissioned to produce the external sculptures of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, and he made the eight relief portraits in the King’s Hall of Old Parliament House in Canberra.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of The Australian Industry Group, 2012
Accession number: 2012.52