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Leonard French
, 1980's (printed 2018)

by Jacqueline Mitelman

inkjet print (sheet: 58.7 cm x 48.8 cm, image: 43.2 cm x 33.3 cm)

Leonard French OBE (1928-2017), artist, left school at fourteen to become an apprentice signwriter in his native Melbourne. He later studied part-time at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. After the war, he visited Europe, studying the Byzantine art whose influence would later become evident in his work. On his return to Australia, he taught at various Melbourne technical schools until the late 1950s. In 1956 he completed the seven-panel Legend of Sinbad the Sailor which hung in the ultra-modern Legend Café in Melbourne. Henceforth, he became one of the country's most successful and sought-after artists (although he worked as the National Gallery of Victoria's Exhibitions Officer between 1956 and 1960). Having won the Sulman Prize in 1960, he took out the Blake Prize in 1963 and 1980. In between, his enormous dalle de verre (concrete and slab glass) ceiling in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria was commissioned in 1963, and completed in 1968. Incredibly, it was his first work in this medium. Other monumental glass projects of the sixties and seventies were the windows for the new National Library in Canberra and the Alpha and Omega window in Monash University's Blackwood Hall, and in 1972 he painted the ten-metre square mural Regeneration for the Great Hall of University House, ANU.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2018
Accession number: 2018.126