The Archibald Memorial Fountain is an iconic landmark in Sydney’s famous Hyde Park. It was created by French sculptor François-Léon Sicard, following a bequest from its namesake Mr J.F. Archibald. Archibald set aside money his will to establish a monument to commemorate the association of Australia and France in the First World War.
The memorial’s bronze statues were cast in France over several years and the granite fountain was later constructed on site. The statues include the mythological figures of Apollo, Diana, Pan and Theseus, as well as a variety of animals. The dedication of the memorial took place on 14 March 1932.
An imposing Art Deco sculpture, the fountain is constructed of red-brown granite and features multiple bronze statues of varying sizes.
The memorial’s main basin is the largest of the three basins that make up the fountain. It is approximately 18 metres in diameter. A granite plinth forms part of the basin's wall and has one of the two dedication plaques attached. Both plaques are inscribed with the same wording. The basin is divided into three sections by three low granite walls, which join in the centre to create a Y-shape. These walls do not meet the perimeter wall of the basin, allowing water to flow unimpeded around the pool. Rising above the central junction of the walls are two smaller, circular basins and a rectangular granite pedestal.
On top of the pedestal is a bronze statue of Apollo. He stands with his right arm outstretched, while holding a lyre in his left hand. Numerous water jets spray a fan-like shape around the statue, representing the popular Art Deco motif of a rising sun and drawing the eye upwards. Two bronze horse heads are attached to the top of the pedestal, on its left and right faces, directly below Apollo’s feet. They pour water into the top basin, which is the smallest of the set. The middle basin features several small bronze fish that spray water downwards into the main basin.
The walls in the main basin act as podiums for the three other monumental statues that decorate the fountain. On the wall to Apollo’s left is a statue of Pan, accompanied by several animals. To his right, Diana kneels while holding a bow. She is portrayed alongside a stag and two dogs. A statue of Theseus grasping a sword and the horns of the Minotaur are positioned on the third wall. The second plaque is attached to the wall below this statue. This basin also features several bronze tortoises that spray jets of water.
The memorial has been well-maintained over the years, including upgrades to the granite in 1946, a redesign of the lighting and water jets in 1963, and conservation works in the 1990s, 2017 and 2020.
The fountain was established using a bequest from Mr. J.F. Archibald (1856–1919), co-founder of The Bulletin magazine. In his will, Archibald decreed the funds were to “provide some beautiful bronze symbolic open-air memorial by a French artist, commemorative of Australia and France having fought side by side for the liberties of the world” (The Daily Telegraph, 2 June 1926).
Archibald also endowed the important 'Archibald Portrait Prize', awarded each year by the nearby Art Gallery of New South Wales.
As the bequest stipulated a French artist must complete the work, interviews were held in France to find a suitable candidate. Renowned sculptor François-Léon Sicard (1862–1934) was chosen and a London-based committee oversaw his progress on a regular basis (The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 July 1929).
Working from photographs and sketches of the Royal Botanic Gardens, the site proposed in the bequest, Sicard prepared three models for the committee to choose from. A photograph of the winning model was printed in The Sydney Morning Herald on 30 June 1927.
During the construction process, Sicard explained he used symbolic figures to represent the relationship between Australia and France “so that [the figures] might not only appeal to the Australians visually, but might also appeal to their soul” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 1932).
At the unveiling ceremony in 1932, Mr T.H. Kelly, chairman of the Perpetual Trustee Company who were the trustees of Archibald’s will, described Sicard as “one of the most distinguished of all living artists” and listed his awards and many notable works (The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 1932).
On 14 March 1932, the fountain was “officially handed over” by the trustees to the then Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman Walder (The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 1932). A grand event, the unveiling was well-attended and included a detailed speech by Mr Kelly, which was reported the following day in The Sydney Morning Herald.
The memorial is located in Hyde Park North, positioned at the intersection of the two main walkways through the park. It is surrounded by grassed areas and park benches, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to take photographs, or simply sit and enjoy the space. The fountain is accessible from Elizabeth Street, St James Road or College Street.
While the original bequest named Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens as the location, no suitable site was found. By 1927, it was decided to incorporate the fountain into the plans to remodel Hyde Park, which were already underway (The Sun, 24 August 1927).
City of Sydney - Archibald Memorial Fountain
Dictionary of Sydney - Archibald Fountain
NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage - Hyde Park
International Conservation Services - Archibald Fountain
This fountain is a gift of the late J. F. Archibald to his fellow countryman and is intended in terms of his will to commemorate the association of Australia and France in the Great War 1914–1918. It was erected in 1932 and is the work of Francois Sicard, Sculptor, Paris.
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