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Margaret Francis Ellen Baskerville (1861–1930)

by Ken Scarlett

This article was published:

Margaret Francis Ellen Baskerville (1861-1930), by unknown photographer

Margaret Francis Ellen Baskerville (1861-1930), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23122216

Margaret Francis Ellen Baskerville (1861-1930), sculptor, was born on 14 September 1861 at North Melbourne, eldest child of Edgar Arthur Baskerville, ironmonger, and his wife Sarah Francis, née Moseley. John Baskerville, the printer, was an ancestor.

Margaret spent her youth in Ballarat, where she attended Miss Quinlan's School for Ladies. Later the family returned to Melbourne where her father set up as a tobacconist in Bourke Street. She studied at the National Gallery school in 1880 and 1882-85 under O. R. Campbell and G. F. Folingsby, and attended Saturday afternoon life classes conducted by C. D. Richardson. In 1886 she was licensed to teach with the Victorian Education Department, for which she worked for sixteen years.

Margaret Baskerville soon determined to become a sculptor. However she continued to produce water-colours and oil paintings; in 1899 her 'Study of Wallflowers' won a diploma at the Greater Britain Exhibition and was shown in Paris in 1900. By 1902 she was a full-time sculptor, running private afternoon classes at her studio behind the Assembly Hall in Collins Street. Her works at this time included 'Gathering Flowers', 'Nature's Mirror', 'Fern Gatherer' and 'The Book of Fate'. By 1904 she had saved enough to go to London where she studied at the Royal College of Art under Professor Lanteri and had instruction in marble carving from Galmuzzi. Her work won the praise of Auguste Rodin who visited the college twice while she was a student there. From London she visited Paris, Rome, Florence and Switzerland. After her return to Australia in 1906 she assisted Richardson in their Collins Street studio; on 23 December 1914 they were married at St John's Church of England, East Malvern. She was then 53 and Richardson 61.

In 1907 Margaret Baskerville had won six prizes for sculpture at the Women's Work Exhibition held in Melbourne. Her first commission, for which she was paid £1000, was the Sir Thomas Bent memorial, Brighton. Begun in 1911 and unveiled on 20 October 1913, the over-life-sized statue is of bronze on a pedestal of granite and is probably her best-known work. Other commissions followed. The James Cuming memorial (1915-16), for which she did her own marble carving, was placed at Footscray. In 1916 she produced a circular marble plaque in memory of Ernest Wood for St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, and in 1922 as a war memorial for Alexandra, Victoria, a bronze figure of a soldier leaning on his rifle; the pose is conventional and the style simple realism. In a subsequent memorial for Maryborough, unveiled on 24 October 1926, she depicted in bronze a soldier on the battlefield. Her Edith Cavell memorial, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, was unveiled on 11 November 1926. She also produced three life-sized figures of Daphne, Echo and Persephone for the remodelled restaurant in the Hotel Australia, Collins Street; these figures were presumably demolished with the hotel in 1938. With her husband she worked on two bas-reliefs for the foyer of the Capitol Theatre, opened in 1922.

Margaret Baskerville produced a number of portrait heads and busts, particularly of children. She showed her work regularly throughout her life and exhibited for the last time in 1929. A foundation member of and office-bearer in the Yarra Sculptors' Society (1898-1909), she was also a member of the Victorian Sketching Club, the Women's Art Club, the council of the Australian Institute of the Arts and Literature, and the Austral Salon; as a member of the Victorian Artists' Society she vigorously defended her husband in controversies while he was president. She predeceased him on 6 July 1930 at Brighton, and was cremated. The Brighton City Council has a number of her works.

Select Bibliography

  • E. A. Vidler, Margaret Baskerville, Sculptor (Melb, 1929)
  • W. Moore, ‘Sculpture and architecture’, Architecture (Sydney), Apr 1925
  • New Idea, 1 Dec 1902, 6 Oct 1905
  • Woman's World, 1 May 1922
  • Argus (Melbourne), 28 Oct 1913
  • Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser, 26 Oct 1926
  • National Gallery school records (State Library of Victoria)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ken Scarlett, 'Baskerville, Margaret Francis Ellen (1861–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Margaret Francis Ellen Baskerville (1861-1930), by unknown photographer

Margaret Francis Ellen Baskerville (1861-1930), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23122216