Mervyn Napier Waller was born at Penshurst, in rural Victoria. He studied drawing under Frederick McCubbin and painting under Bernard Hall at the National Gallery School, Melbourne. In August 1915 he enlisted in the army. The following year he married artist Christian Yandell (Waller), and by the end of the year was engaged in active combat in France. He was badly injured in 1917, necessitating the amputation of his right arm; he had to learn to use his left hand for writing and drawing while convalescing in France and England; it is possible that he learnt linocutting at the same time. He returned to Australia in November 1917 and exhibited works he made while in service, both before and after his accident.
It was in 1923 that he first exhibited linocuts which he began making after his return to Australia, most of them completed before 1930; he was one of the first Australian artists to make and exhibit them. 'The man in black' is a self portrait (showing both arms intact); Waller is standing in front of the mural he made for the Melbourne Public Library (completed in 1928).
Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, Australian prints from the Gallery's collection, AGNSW, 1998
colour linocut on cream wove paper
30.6 x 17.6 cm blockmark; 37.2 x 23.8 cm sheet
Signature & date
Signed l.r., pencil "M. Napier Waller". Signed with monogram in block to print l.r., black ink "MNW". Not dated.
Not on display
© Courtesy Trustees of the Waller Estate
Shown in 1 exhibition
Australian prints from the Gallery's collection (1998-1999), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Nov 1998–07 Feb 1999
Referenced in 5 publications
Roger Butler., Melbourne woodcuts and linocuts of the 1920's and 1930's, 'Woodcuts and Linocuts of the 1920s and 1930's', Sydney, 1981, (colour illus.), (illus.). Collection of Ballarat Fine Art Gallery; not paginated; no catalogue numbers
Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, Canberra, 2010, 100 (colour illus.). Collection of National Gallery of Australia
Roger Arthur Butler, Printed images by Australian artists 1885-1955, Canberra, 2007, 184 (colour illus.). Collection of National Gallery of Australia
Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, Australian prints from the Gallery's collection, Sydney, 1998, 56 (colour illus.). cat.no. 44
Nicholas Draffin, Australian woodcuts and linocuts of the 1920s and 1930s, South Melbourne, 1976, 11, 33 (colour illus.). Collection of National Gallery of Victoria; dated circa 1928