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Australian art

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The man in black



Napier Waller


19 Jun 1893 - 30 Mar 1972


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




Media category


Materials used

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.


Purchased 1971


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Napier Waller

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

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

Roger Arthur Butler, Printed images by Australian artists 1885-1955, Canberra, 2007, 184 (colour illus.). Collection of National Gallery of Australia

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

Anne Gray, Face: Australian portraits 1880-1960, Canberra, 2010, 100 (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.). 44