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Australian art

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Squadron Leader R. H. Gibbes



Barbara Tribe

Australia, England

20 Jun 1913 - 21 Oct 2000


This bust is of renowned pilot Robert 'Bobby' Gibbes (1916-2007) who had served in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. In recognition of his status as an 'air ace', Gibbes had his bust by Barbara Tribe commissioned by Australia House, London, along with six other distinguished Australian airmen. In a 1999-2000 interview Gibbes humorously recalled his reluctance in modelling for Tribe during a layover in England in 1943:

"So I went to see Barbara Tribe, now I wanted to chase all the young fillies around. I had been away from women for a couple of years in the desert because no women in the desert and I was going to try and do some good for myself and so I had to sit for hours each day with a flying helmet on and harness on while Barbara Tribe messed around with big things of white clay modelling Gibbes' dial [face] and after a while I said to Barbara, "Well look, this is a bit boring couldn't I have a beer or two?" So the pub nearby, so she gave me a big glass jug so I took that in and he'd fill it and I'd drink, she used to drink one or two with me I might add, but I'd end up being half tipsy by the time I finished the [bust].

Well the tragedy was I wasn't killed and I came back and I had my bust given to my mother and of course she seemed to think it was alright but then after she had died, it became my property again and it is a source of embarrassment. I used to hide it under the bed, put it in cupboards and so on and eventually I got a brainwave, and I saw one of my old schoolmates who had been and then the master of my old school All Saints College at Bathurst I said, "I'd like to give it to the school, do you think they'd like to have it?". He said, "Yes." So that's where it is now, that's the story of the bust [1]" .

Finished bronze versions of the bust, which were cast in 1943 and 1968 by John Galizia and Sons Foundry, London, are located in the collections of All Saints College, Bathurst, NSW, the RAF Museum, London, and the Australian War Memorial.

1. Interview transcript from Australians at war film archive, accessed 20.07.2015 <>


Place where the work was made

London England



Media category


Materials used



48.5 x 46.5 x 31.0 cm

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r. verso, incised "Barbara Tribe./ .../ 1943.".


Bequest of Barbara Tribe 2015


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Barbara Tribe

Artist profile

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 8 publications


Patricia McDonald, Barbara Tribe: sculptor, North Ryde, 2000, 31 (illus.), 32, 45, 84 (colour illus.), 148, 156, 159. plate no. 8a

Royal Academy of Arts, The Royal Academy of Arts, 1944, London, 1944, 64. 1230; bronze version

Barbara Tribe, Barbara Tribe: retrospective exhibition of sculpture, drawings and paintings, Guildford, 1981, n.pag. (illus.). photograph of subject sitting for artist in her studio

Jane Wheatley., Good Weekend, 'A head for figures', Sydney, 10 Jun 2000, 66.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The News, 'Air ace goes into stone', pg. 3, Adelaide, 02 Oct 1943, 3.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Woman sculptor's success', pg. 6, Sydney, 28 Apr 1944, 6.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Social news and events', pg. 10, Sydney, 21 Apr 1944, 10.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Barrier Miner, 'Airman's trial at hands of woman', pg. 4, Broken Hill, 16 Aug 1943, 4.