Four things that make Daphne Mayo an awesome lady

Guest Post
Rebecca Randall, final year Masters student, writes about her observations of Daphne Mayo, while digitising the collection (UQFL119). Daphne Mayo (1895-1982) was a significant Australian sculptor, whose major works include the Brisbane City Hall tympanum and the Queensland Women’s War Memorial.

1.She didn’t just sculpt human models

These stunning photos from 1935 show Daphne Mayo working hard to capture the spirit of one of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary’s most popular residents.

Daphne Mayo sculpting a kangaroo at Lone Pin Koala Sanctuary
Daphne Mayo modelling a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary, Brisbane, 1935 
Daphne Mayo sculpting a kangaroo at Lone Pin Koala Sanctuary
Let's try another pose!

Well, actually, two residents.

Daphne Mayo sculpting a kangaroo at Lone Pin Koala Sanctuary
Perfect! Hold it there.

And while we’re on the subject of cute, fuzzy mammals…

2.Daphne Mayo loved cats

Let’s face it, anyone who loves cats is a pretty terrific human being. And Daphne Mayo has always had a special place in her heart for cats.

Daphne Mayo in her studio, standing in between two scupltures of saints holding her cat and Daphne Mayo patting a cat
Daphne Mayo with Tibby the cat.

3.She had a great sense of humour

As can be seen in the correspondence on the back of some of her photographs, Daphne Mayo had a sharp mind that could spin up some real zingers.

A boy stanging outside the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
"The leaning church (!) Pisa - This is one of K's snaps is meant to be a photo of ME with the church as background - where she has mislaid me goodness only knows"
Daphne Mayo with artist Lloyd Rees, sitting on the ground
"I look as though I'd developed English feet!" Daphne Mayo with Lloyd Rees.

It really is a shame that ‘English feet’ didn’t survive the 1920s as a memorable phrase.

4.Daphne Mayo was one of the strongest women of her time

I’m not just talking about her presence either. The woman was STRONG. If you were a sculptor, you had to be. Among the many things she sculpted over the years, the Tympanum above Brisbane City Hall is arguably her most recognisable – and one of her biggest projects.

Daphne Mayo working with John Theodore Muller on the central figure of the Brisbane City Hall tympanum
Mayo working with John Theodore Muller on the central figure of the Brisbane City Hall tympanum, 10 Dec 1930

I walk past this building often, but couldn’t remember the last time I stopped and just stared at it. After digitising these photographs for several weeks, I decided to do just that.

Two view of Brisbane City Hall taken in the 1930s
Views of Brisbane City Hall in the 1930s

The next time you’re passing through King George Square, I recommend you try it. Take the time to stare up at this gigantic monument, and remember that the sculptor was once an asthma-stricken girl, who grew into one of Queensland’s most renowned sculptors.

And if that doesn’t inspire you to go forth and do great things, I don’t know what will.

Daphne Mayo sitting in her studio, beside a panel for the east doors of the Public Library of New South Wales
Mayo sitting beside a panel for the east doors of the Public Library of New South Wales, 1941

Digitisation of this collection was made possible through donations to the UQ Library. You can view the digitised collection in UQ eSpace

Last updated:
28 September 2017