13. The Soul And David Syme I
Acrylic on linen
48” x 36”
David Syme circa 1856, National Archive Australia
David Syme is intimately connected to the establishment of Melbourne and the rise of Victoria as one of great significance to our nation. This diptych of paintings is of his monumental heritage-listed tomb in Kew Cemetery.
I am bedazzled and obsessed by what I consider to be one of the coolest mausoleums ever, and I guess that’s not a surprise considering I have now painted it across 5 works. A sixth (and likely final) is planned.
In trying to understand more about the man I undertook much research when I embarked upon painting the Memorial Triptych (2018) and again when I commenced working on these before you.
I have now read all 3 biographies written about David Syme, and each gives its own unique perspective on this complex, enigmatic man who wielded so much power in Victoria in the late 1800's.
I have handled and examined his personal diaries, investigated the architect of the tomb - Walter Richmond Butler - and in varying degrees from considerable to minor could tell you something about each of his and his wife Annabella’s 9 children.
The Soul And David Syme I (a reflection of the title of his final book, "The Soul (A Study And An Argument)", is based on a photograph taken from the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria., January 12th 1963.
The statue of David Syme reading a newspaper is my render of the bronze statue by renowned artists Gilles And Marc that is installed out front of the Chirnside Shopping Centre.
The image of Mercury is from a statue created by C. Douglas Richardson and cast by W.H.Rocke, now in the Melbourne Museum. It once stood atop one of the early The Age buildings; it is interpreted by me here as the syncretic god Djehuti – Mercury – Hermes. Below Mercury I have included a charming drawing from the late Dr. Veronica Condon's website dedicated to her father - Geoffery Syme (David's 3rd son) - showing the statue where it once stood in earlier years.
The image of HetHrt (Hathor) is based upon the Martha Bianchi (1897 - 1936) grave statue in Hampstead Cemetery, England, by masons J.S. Farley.