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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Rosemary Madigan


05 Dec 1926 - 12 Feb 2019


"I think I was very concerned with understanding the body ... not specifically as far as muscles went, but the way inner structures - the rib cage and pelvis - two major inner structures - work together. Because I was so interested in the way it articulated I didn't deal with the arms or legs or head. I was not thinking of realism at all, but the basic articulation: coping with a complex three dimensional form ... I was never concerned to get a 'type' of figure ... I'm really only interested in the form".

Speaking in 1994 of an earlier sculpture she had made, Madigan expressed what have continued to be her main concerns in her focus on the female torso, since carving her first stone female form in London in 1952.

As a result of her travels through India in 1953, Madigan was exposed to the profound subtlety of Indian sculpture and the 'primitive' simplicity of Romanesque art. Her sculpture 'Torso', in which she simplified elements of the human body into an articulate, generic form has similar elements of clarity and purity. She also greatly admired Michelangelo's relief sculptures: "I take a journey into sculpture trying to eliminate as much as I can to achieve something that is just basically sculpture and beyond fashion or colour or style". Due to its reduction to pure and understated form, 'Torso' is almost sculpture in relief

Rosemary Madigan was born in Glenelg, South Australia in 1926 the daughter of geologist and explorer, Cecil Madigan. Having very early decided to pursue a career as a sculptor, she studied at the Girls Central Art School in Adelaide at the age of thirteen and later at the South Australian School of Art. She attended night classes at East Sydney Technical College in 1940 and again under Lyndon Dadswell in 1948, graduating with a Diploma in Sculpture. In 1950, award of the New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship enabled her to study at John Cass College in London 1952-53, and to travel in Europe and India.

Upon her return to Australia in 1953, Madigan settled first in Adelaide and then in 1973, in Sydney, where she continued teaching and sculpting. Initially she experimented with assemblages (works constructed from small wooden machine parts, inspired by her friend, Robert Klippel), but returned to her wood and stone carvings of the human form, the area in which her most significant sculptures have been produced.

Madigan is one of Australia's most distinguished sculptors who, having worked somewhat outside the mainstream of Australian sculpture, has made her reputation quite late in life.

Madigan received the Wynne Prize for 'Torso' in 1986, relatively late in her artistic career. She had entered the Prize three times before without success, and this was also the first time a sculptor had won the prize in thirty-three years.

©Australian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales




Media category


Materials used



104.5 x 38.0 x 22.0 cm :

0 - Whole, 119.5 cm, height including base

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1986


Not on display

Accession number


Wynne Prize

Winner - 1986

Artist information

Rosemary Madigan

Artist profile

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 11 publications


Bruce Adams, The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Sculpture in a familiar landscape', page unknown., Sydney, 02 Jan 1987, (illus.). Arts and entertainment section; review of the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prize 1987.

Helen Campbell, Wynne centenary 1897-1997: a selection of past winners from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1997, (colour illus.). not paginated

Deborah Edwards, Australian art: in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Mosaic and figure', pg. 213-214, Sydney, 2000, 222 (colour illus.), 301.

Deborah Edwards, Australian Collection Focus: Torso 1954 and Torso 1986, 'Rosemary Madigan, Sculptor', 2-9., Sydney, 2011, front cover (colour illus., detail), 3 (colour illus.), 9, 10 (colour illus.), 11. 6

Deborah Edwards, Look, 'Rosemary Madigan, sculptor', pg. 26-29, Sydney, Feb 2011, 26 (colour illus.), 29.

Brian Hoad, The Bulletin with Newsweek, 'At last the gallery trustees get the message', pg. 82-84, Sydney, 13 Jan 1987, 82-3, 84 (illus.). Review of the 1987 Archibald, Wynne and Sulman prizes.

Elwyn Lynn, The Weekend Australian magazine, 'Brave survey of the landscape', page unknown., Sydney, 03 Jan 1987-04 Jan 1987, (illus.). Arts section; review of The Wynne Prize 1987 exhibition.

Joanna Mendelssohn, Times on Sunday, 'To sell a sculpture is like losing a child', pg. 29, Broadway, 15 Mar 1987, 29. Review of Wollongong City Art Gallery exhibition, mentioning the award of the Wynne Prize for 'Torso'

Campbell Reid, Daily telegraph, '"Grumpy doctor" wins Archibald', pg. 4, Sydney, 20 Dec 1986, 4.

Nicholas Rothwell, The Weekend Australian, 'Winning portrait shocks purists', pg. 1-2, Sydney, 20 Dec 1986-21 Dec 1986, 2.

Editor Unknown (Editor), The Bulletin with Newsweek, 'Rosemary Madigan: sculpture on a journey', pg. 91, Sydney, 28 Apr 1987, 90-91.