I’ll Put a Girdle Around the Earth

Australian muralist, mosaicist and painter in stained glass and other media, Mervyn Napier Waller was born in Penhurst, Victoria on 19 June 1893. He studied at the National Gallery school in Melbourne and exhibited his first paintings and drawings in 1915. The following year he married and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). During WWI he served in France and was badly wounded at Bullecourt, where he lost his right arm. He subsequently learned how to use his left hand after having been right-hand dominant.

By 1923, Napier Waller became the first to make and exhibit lino cuts in Australia. He then turned to mural design and won his first commission for the former Menzies Hotel in Melbourne, in 1927. (Although the building was demolished in 1969, the mural was sold privately). This was followed by a set of murals created for the Melbourne Town Hall in the same year. Later Napier Waller won the commission to provide panels for the Dining Hall at the Myer Emporium  in 1935.

Napier Waller became senior art teacher for the Applied Art School of the Working Men’s College, Melbourne (now the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University). Although his work was strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite and late-19th C British painters, his monumental works show a classical and formal style; using timeless and heroic figure compositions to express ideas and ideals often featuring Arcadian-themed Theosophical and Gnostic overtones.

  • Mervyn Napier Waller died on 30 March 1972, in Melbourne.

Some of his work pictured above includes:

  • I’ll Put a Girdle Around the Earth – Exterior mosaic mural, Newspaper House, Collins Street Melbourne (1933)
  • Wife Christian (nee Yandell) with their three dogs Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills (1932)
  • Peace After Victory, The State Library of Victoria  (1934)
  • Mosaic and stained glass windows for the Hall of Memory, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1958.

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