We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


The spirit of the sea



Barbara Tribe

Australia, England

20 Jun 1913 – 21 Oct 2000

Artist profile

Alternate image of The spirit of the sea by Barbara Tribe
Alternate image of The spirit of the sea by Barbara Tribe
Alternate image of The spirit of the sea by Barbara Tribe
  • Details

    Media category
    Materials used
    plaster, wood
    39.5 x 41.5 x 23.5 cm
    Signature & date

    Signed l.l. verso, incised "Barbara Tribe.". Not dated.

    Bequest of Barbara Tribe 2015
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Barbara Tribe Foundation

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    Artist information
    Barbara Tribe

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    In 'The spirit of the sea' 1933 Barbara Tribe has endowed a mythological subject with a modern sensibility. The marine theme was influenced by her upbringing in Sydney's eastern suburbs and was in tune with the classicised reimagining of beach life by Australian artists during the 1930s. Tribe has modelled a mermaid being devoured by a sea creature in 'The spirit of the sea'. Its overt eroticism, represented by the sexual symbolism of the serpent and its contortion of the female figure, is indicative of the vitalist traditions taught by Rayner Hoff with whom Tribe was a student of at East Sydney Technical College.' The spirit of the sea’ was first exhibited in the Society of Artists, Sydney, in 1934, where it and was reviewed favourably in the Sydney Mail.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 5 publications

Other works by Barbara Tribe

See all 7 works