Cooma’s Centennial Park is now home to a prized artwork by one of the nation’s most revered artists.
The Rix Wright sculpture, The Shearer, has returned to being pride of place with an official unveiling witnessed by Rix’s family, friends and the community.
Mothballed for two years while arrangements were made for its return to public viewing, Rix’s first wife Jenny and children Bronwyn and Bruno were on hand to do the honours.
LIVE in Cooma at the unveiling of The Shearer by Rix Wright.
Posted by About Regional on Monday, 16 September 2019
The Shearer holds a special place in the Snowy Monaro’s arts and historical story, representing the region’s strong agricultural and wool industries.
Rix was the son of globally acclaimed artist Hilda Rix Nicholas, but he’s also remembered as one of Australia’s most eminent sculptors in his own right.
The sculpture was completed when Rix was just 19 years. It was exhibited in Sydney alongside the works of his mother at the David Jones exhibition of 1949 before returning to the family property at Delegate on the southern Monaro.
Daughter Bronwyn says Rix was just 17 years old when he started the work.
“It was quite ambitious for an artist that young to take on a life-size bronze shearer – it’s one of his best works,” she says.
The sculpture adorned the Wright family garden until 1969 when it was bought by the Ashton polo family for $1,000.
“That was a lot of money in the day, dad would have been very pleased,” Bronwyn says.
For the decades that followed The Shearer was a focal point in the Ashton’s garden at Markdale, near Crookwell, northwest of Goulburn.
Monaro pastoralists Jim and Libby Litchfield of Hazeldean snapped it up at auction a few years ago, concerned it would be lost to the region.
There are four other Rix Wright sculptures locally, creating something of an art trail for enthusiasts.
This sculpture is the predecessor to another Shearer sculpture displayed in Bombala and Wild Horses displayed in Delegate. The fourth, The Fallen Workers, is in Eden.
More than 40 families and businesses contributed to the purchase of The Shearer. This week’s unveiling is the culmination of that effort, which was sidetracked by the amalgamation of Cooma-Monaro, Snowy River and Bombala councils.
A plaque embedded in the plinth acknowledges the generosity of all those who contributed.
“There are many people who have contributed to this project; in particular, Craig Mitchell, the former Cooma-Monaro Shire Councillor who coordinated the donations; Bronwyn Wright who provided guidance for the sculpture’s placement; and previous owners of the sculpture, Jim and Libby Litchfield,” says Snowy Monaro Regional Council Tourism Manager Donna Smith.
The Shearer sits atop of a basalt rock plinth made by stonemason Mark Clarke. Its design complements the existing rock walks in the adjacent roundabouts and represents the Monaro region Rix Wright loved.
Bronwyn says her dad, who died in 2009, would approve of The Shearer‘s new home.
“My father never wanted to see it polished, which will save Council a bit of money,” she laughs.
“This is just how he wanted it – it’s a beautiful colour. One of the nice things about bronze is that you don’t have to have it all bright and shiny, there are all these colours in the texture. It’s really great to see it in a public space.”
The Shearer can be viewed in Centennial Park, Cooma, on the corner of Bombala and Sharp Streets, replacing the diseased century-old elm tree that had to be removed from the park.
Original Article published by Ian Campbell on About Regional.