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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Montford, Paul Raphael (1868–1938)

by Jenny Zimmer

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Paul Montford, Herald and Weekly Times, c.1935

Paul Montford, Herald and Weekly Times, c.1935

State Library of Victoria, 49386136

Paul Raphael Montford (1868-1938), sculptor, was born on 1 November 1868 at Kentish Town, London, son of Horace Montford, sculptor, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth, née Lewis. Horace Montford was curator of schools at the Royal Academy of Arts; Paul learned modelling in his father's studio and drawing at the Lambeth School of Art. He entered the Royal Academy of Arts' schools in 1887 on scholarships and after an outstanding studentship travelled to Italy, Spain and France on another scholarship won in 1891, along with the academy's gold medal.

Montford regularly exhibited portrait-busts at the Royal Academy but specialized in the sculpture of architectural decoration. He completed the façades of Battersea Town Hall (1892) and Polytechnic, reliefs for the Charles Street bridge, Westminster, and for the Cardiff City Hall and Law Courts, bronze groups for Kelvin bridge, Glasgow (1914), and a war memorial at Croydon. His memorial of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman is in Westminster Abbey. Montford taught sculpture at the School of Art, Chelsea, in 1898-1903, and was modelling master at the London Polytechnic for five years. On 11 September 1912 he married Marian Alice Dibdin, portrait painter.

Commissions became scarce, however, after World War I and at 54 the energetic and enthusiastic Montford came to Australia, motivated by his belief that its light was conducive to great monumental sculpture. But he found little prospect of earning a living as a sculptor. He taught at the Gordon Institute of Technology, Geelong, Victoria, and in July 1924 exhibited at the Geelong Art Gallery. The critic J. S. MacDonald suggested the establishment of a sculpture school at the National Gallery of Victoria under Montford's direction. It failed to eventuate but he became influential through his lectures at the Victorian Artists' Society of which he was president in 1930-31. Montford's avant-garde opinions concerning the social and environmental role of sculpture in the modern city were regularly aired, with his usual zeal. His unconventional, flamboyant and theatrical personality, his sculptural practices, Bohemian life-style and his Toorak studio were continuously featured in the Melbourne press.

In 1927 Montford won the commission for the exterior sculptural groups at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance. His work for the project was disparaged in Stead's Review and Smith's Weekly but he was restricted from the outset by the architectural and thematic requirements. Accusations that he habitually looked to the classical world for inspiration are refuted by his exhaustive efforts to present other Australian subjects with precise contemporary detail and historical authenticity. His seated statue of Adam Lindsay Gordon in Spring Street Gardens, Melbourne, condemned in the Australian press, won the gold medal of the Royal Society of British Sculptors (1934). His nearly seventy Australian works include statues of John Wesley (Wesley Church, Melbourne), George Higinbotham near the Treasury, and the memorials to Carlo Catani (St Kilda), Benjamin Chaffey (Mildura), Sir Ross Smith (Adelaide), and 'Pioneer Women' (Sydney).

Montford died on 15 January 1938 of leukaemia, at Richmond. His ashes were scattered in the woods at Leatherhead, Surrey, England. His wife, two daughters and son returned to England and were granted a civil list pension in 1939 for Montford's services to sculpture.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Spielmann, British Sculpture and Sculptors of Today (Lond, 1901)
  • A. Pratt, The National War Memorial of Victoria (Melb, 1934)
  • G. Sturgeon, The Development of Australian Sculpture 1788-1975 (Lond, 1978)
  • K. W. Scarlett, Australian Sculptors (Melb, 1980)
  • S. Beattie, The New Sculpture (New Haven, Connecticut, 1983)
  • Architects' Journal, 56, 1922
  • Art in Australia, no 7, Mar 1924
  • Stead's Review, 2, Dec 1929
  • Argus (Melbourne), 21 Apr 1923
  • Herald (Melbourne), 29 July 1924, 22 May 1928, 15 Aug 1931, 6 Aug 1936
  • Evening Sun, 25 Apr 1925
  • Table Talk (Melbourne), 25 Sept 1930
  • Smith's Weekly (Sydney), 27 Dec 1930
  • Age (Melbourne), 1 Aug 1931
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 17 Jan 1938.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Jenny Zimmer, 'Montford, Paul Raphael (1868–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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