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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henschke, Albert Julius (1888–1955)

by Donald Richardson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Albert Julius Henschke (1888-1955), stonemason, monumental-mason and sculptor, was born on 22 August 1888 at North Rhine (later Keyneton), upper Barossa Valley, South Australia, sixth child of Paul Gotthard Henschke, farmer and winemaker, and his wife Johanne Mathilde, née Schulz. Paul's father Johann Christian had arrived from Prussia in 1841.

Julius attended the North Rhine Lutheran school then trained as a monumental mason at Tanunda. He married Alfrida Amalia Klein on 12 September 1913 at the Lutheran Parsonage, Wakefield Street, Adelaide, and in the 1920s opened his own business at Tanunda. Many gravestones in Barossa Valley cemeteries carry his trade name—'Henschke Tanunda'. In addition, he probably carved the fonts in a number of churches. He moved to Adelaide in 1926 to become master mason in the South Australian Monumental Works.

In 1926 the architect Louis Laybourne Smith commissioned the sculptural elements of the National War Memorial in Adelaide from George Rayner Hoff, who made one-quarter size plaster models in his Sydney studio. Henschke scaled up the models and carved the Angaston-marble reliefs of angels in situ as the memorial was constructed—a labour which lasted from 1927 to 1931 and was his major achievement.

Hoff also commissioned Henschke to carve two independent statues from his plaster models: the portrait of Len Lye, which won the Wynne Prize in 1927, and 'Australian Venus' (1932), which is in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Henschke never received acknowlegement for this work. He carved war memorials at Tanunda (1920) and Freeling (1923) and the Tanunda monument to E. H. Coombe, who had defended Barossa Valley people 'of German extraction' during World War I. Henschke was one of these. Although a patriotic, third-generation Australian, he was refused the commission for the Gawler South war memorial in 1920 solely because of his German name.

More than a skilled monumental mason, Henschke painted many signs and illuminated addresses, the interior decoration of the church at Gnadenburg in the Barossa Valley (later obliterated), and 'The Good Shepherd', in Alawoona Lutheran church. According to local tradition, he sculpted a life-size female nude, which remains in the garden of his former home at Tanunda, but this cannot be confirmed from records.

Henschke carved the Corinthian capitals and other architectural features on Parliament House, Adelaide (c.1938), the Australian Mutual Provident Society building (1936) and the Art Gallery of South Australia (1937), and the emblem of the Savings Bank of South Australia on its King William Street building (1941). One of his last works was the base of Maurice Lambert's equestrian statue of King George V, in Angas Gardens, Adelaide, which was unveiled in 1956.

With an attractive and convivial personality, Henschke was a skilled player of the euphonium, a long-serving member of the Tanunda Brass Band and its deputy leader about 1925. He died of cerebrovascular disease on 30 April 1955 in Royal Adelaide Hospital, survived by his wife and their two daughters. The vigneron Cyril Henschke was his nephew.

Select Bibliography

  • Henschke Heritage (Adel, 1995)
  • D. Richardson, Julius Henschke (Mount Barker, SA, 2000).

Citation details

Donald Richardson, 'Henschke, Albert Julius (1888–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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