Lucien Henry design for wall paper, 1915. Contributed by Internet Archive [The Australian flora in applied art (1915)] (The LuEsther T Mertz Library, the New York Botanical Garden)

This week, I joined Tim in the 2SER studio to talk about Lucien Henry, the pioneer of distinctly Australian art. Henry was passionate about Australia’s native flowers and worked on promoting an Australian style, writing a book on Australian Decorative Arts as well as designing stained glass windows for Sydney’s Town Hall.

Henry came to Australia via New Caledonia where he was sent for his revolutionary activities in the Paris Commune. When he was freed from incarceration in 1879 he moved to Sydney to build a new life.

As it happened, Henry arrived in Sydney at a great moment in time; the colony was preparing for its centenary in 1888 and  The Sydney International Exhbition was about to open. As one of the few trained artists in the colony, he was given the role of judge for the International Exhibition. In 1881, he began teaching modelling at Sydney Technical College and soon offered a new course in drawing with a focus on native Australian fauna and flora. In 1884, he became the first Instructor of the Department of Art at the Sydney Technical College.

Henry returned to Paris in 1891 where he published his second book, Waratah: Australian Legend. The book championed the flower Henry used in a number of his own designs and templates for architectural and artistic works.

Henry died in Paris in 1896. Not long afterwards, with the advent of Australian Federation, Australian native flora and fauna artistic motifs exploded in popularity. You can read more about Henry’s contribution to Australian decorative arts here on the Dictionary.

Next week Tim will be chatting to the Dictionary’s Editorial Coordinator, Jacqueline Spedding. Tune in then at 8.20am on 2SER Breakfast 107.3FM for more great stories about Sydney’s past, courtesy of the Dictionary of Sydney.







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