Monday, December 31, 2012

"I'LL PUT A GIRDLE ROUND ABOUT THE EARTH"

I'll put a girdle round about the earth

In a few hours it will be 2013, marking eighty years since this wonderful mosaic by Napier Waller was completed on the façade of Newspaper House in Melbourne. It is easy to miss since it is at the level of the first storey, a blind spot above the glitz of the display windows at street level. It is difficult to photograph because one of Collins Street's magnificent trees just happens to be directly in front of it. So you end up with an oblique angle like the image above.

Newspaper House, Melbourne

You can try to position the tree across one of the windows but the title, "I'll put a girdle round about the earth" runs in a continuous band above the windows.

Newspaper House, Melbourne

So you end up splitting it over a few photos.

Newspaper House, Melbourne

The best time to see the mosaic is midwinter, when the leaves have fallen from the trees and if you pick the right time of day the weak sun reflects off the gold and the whole thing positively glows.

The best photo I have of the mosaic, is not of the mosaic at all. The Art Deco 1910-1939 exhibition at the NGV in 2008 included the large scale oil paintings that Waller did as part of the preparation for the mosaic. These were reproduced as posters promoting the exhibition and placed on the side of the NGV building.

Art Deco at the NGV

By the way, did you notice the year, 1933, at bottom left of the middle panel.

18 comments:

  1. I have never noticed it, but I will make a point of looking. Best wishes for 2013 and hope to see more Art Deco.

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    1. Make sure you do Andrew :-)

      I hope 2013 is the best year ever!

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  2. I worked across the road from that building for 12 years and used to stare at it every day when I walked past. That area of Collins Street is rich with Art Deco, from the foyer of the Manchester Unity Building to the Century Building around the corner. Great photos of the mosaic, too, by the way!
    Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you teeritz.

      It would be lovely to see Waller's mosaic every (work)day for 12 years and as you say to have the two Marcus Barlow buildings (MU & the Century building) just around the corner, not to mention the Capitol Theatre by Walter Burley Griffin in between them. A nice part of town indeed.

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  3. The Capitol, yes! I saw "The Towering Inferno" there back in 1974. I forgot it was still there. It's easy to forget how much Art Deco there is in the CBD. I drove down Lonsdale Street a couple of weeks ago and was sad to discover that the little six storey Deco building near Myer is now gone. It used to have a bicycle store on the ground floor. Thank God I got to the corner of Lonsdale and Elizabeth Streets to see Mitchell House still standing tall.

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    1. Small world, I saw 'The Towering Inferno' there too.

      And yes Lonsdale House was demolished in February and March 2010. The owners, colonial First State & Myer justified it as follows; "Caledonian Lane needs to be widened to cater for the servicing requirements of this part of the city's retail core, and this necessitates the demolition of Lonsdale House". You can see some pleasant and not so pleasant photos here.

      http://artdecobuildings.blogspot.com.au/search?q=lonsdale+house

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    2. Thank God there are pictures of it! It was always on my 'to do' list. Thanks for the link, and thanks for the post about it. Adding a link to your blog on mine. Not much Art Deco on it. In fact none. But the mind-set is there.
      I hope.

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  4. This is definitely my favourite building in Melbourne. I look at it every time I go past in the tram. I always wondered where I might see some photographs of it because, as you say, the trees obscure the lettering.

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    1. It was great to see Waller's large oil painted versions of the three panels at eye level in the NGV. You could really get up close and pick out all the details.

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  5. My Mother was also the model for this painting as in the T&G Building and also the one in Myer Mural hall. Great History. Thank you :-)

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    1. Thank you Judy. I'm sure there is more to that story. Do you know that Peter Quinlivian (http://au.linkedin.com/pub/peter-quinlivian/8/46b/406) is publishing a book on Napier Waller later this year?

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    2. Hi Judy
      I would be most interested to know more of your mother's connection to Napier Waller and his work please. My email is quinlivian@hotmail.com

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  6. My grandfather Fred Kaye is the man in the centre with arms outretched, and was a friend of napier waller and Australian champion weightlifter.

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    1. Thank you! What a great piece of information.

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  7. Peter QuinlivianJuly 12, 2015 at 9:44 PM

    I would be interested to know more details for my biography of Waller please. Email is quinlivian@hotmail.com

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  8. FWIW, I assembled a "mosaic" panorama from the pictures I ttok in 2011: https://flic.kr/p/zrcBua

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