Robert Oliffe

About Artist: Robert Oliffe Gage Richmond (1919-1977), sculptor, was born on 8 November 1919 at Old Beach, Hobart, fifth child of Robert Lawrence Richmond, a farmer from England, and his Tasmanian-born wife Catherine Augusta, née Gage. In 1929 the family moved to New Town. Oliffe attended (1929-36) The Friends' School where he excelled at athletics, cricket, rowing and football, and won a prize for pencil sketching. A female friend recalled that, with his dark hair, olive skin and brown eyes, he was 'much sought after'. After studying (1937-39) art and applied art at Hobart Technical College, and gaining a diploma in 1940, he worked for Amos Vimpany, Hobart's most prominent stonemason, in whose workshop he learned much about materials, tools and methods of carving. He was also influenced by the 'modernistic' ideas of the New Zealand-born sculptor Alison Duff. Richmond had learned to fly small aircraft while he was a student. On the outbreak of World War II he volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force, but was rejected because of a slight defect in his vision. Mobilized in the Militia on 19 August 1940, he rose to staff sergeant in the Intelligence Corps, Hobart, before serving (September to November 1944) in New Guinea with the Royal Australian Engineers. The environment excited his sensibilities with its exotic flora and fauna, and different human physiological 'types'. He drew scenes of army life, but his was, fundamentally, a sculptor's perception. Even in his fully resolved chalk or pencil portrait studies of soldiers, he was concerned with the head as a solid form rather than a face as a window to a soul. The native artefacts he collected would continue to influence his work.

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