I fell in love with the Archibald Fountain when I first saw it at the age of nine. Its real name is the “J. F. Archibald Memorial Fountain“, named after the owner and editor of The Bulletin magazine, who bequeathed funds to have it built. Located in Sydney’s central Hyde Park, it is widely regarded as the finest public fountain in Australia and is electrically illuminated and floodlit at night. Archibald insisted that it be designed by a French artist, both because of his great love of French culture and to commemorate the association of Australia and France during WW1.
- He chose François-Léon Sicard, who completed the work in Paris in 1926 but never saw the sculpture in situ in Sydney, where it was unveiled on 14 March 1932 by the then Lord Mayor of Sydney, Samuel Walder.
- A foremost sculptor of his day, Sicard was a classically educated artist, whose inspirations derived from classical Greek and Roman art and literature. In submitting his proposal for the design of the sculptural group for this fountain, Sicard wrote:
“Apollo represents the Arts (Beauty and Light). He holds out his right arm as a sign of protection, and spreads his benefits over all Nature, whilst he holds the Lyre in his left hand. Apollo is the warmth which vivifies, giving life to all Nature. At the touch of his rays, men awake, trees and fields become green, the animals go out into the fields, and men go to work at dawn. At Apollo’s feet the star of day is indicated by a semi-circle, of which the rays spread out in jets of light (the rising sun). The horses’ heads represent the horses of Apollo’s chariot.
The large basin is divided into three groups. Between these groups tortoises throw jets of water.
- One represents Diana, goddess of purity, of peaceful nights, symbol of charity; the ideal which watches over mortals – and all that stands for poetry and harmony.
- The second group symbolizes the good things of the earth – it is the young god of the fields and pastures, of the pleasure of the countryside.
- The third group represents sacrifice for the public good.
In 2013 this fountain underwent conservation work including the careful cleaning of all the elements, the waxing of the bronze figures and the repainting of the granite base and surround.
It’s endless beauty still abounds and if Apollo is god of light, sun, truth and prophecy, so is this fountain’s maker and its conceptual driver, Mr. J. F. Archibald.
“Is It Art?”