BAUHAUS 100 - HIRSCHFELD MACK HERITAGE TRAIL

GGS_Family_Day_2019_Heritage Trail

1. VIEW OF THE CHAPEL AND CLOISTERS

The Chapel of All Saints (viewed from the Music School) and the War Memorial Cloisters were the subjects of two woodcuts executed by Hirschfeld Mack in 1943; scenes that remain virtually unchanged today. While studying at the Bauhaus, Hirschfeld learnt to experiment with a range of techniques, making use of the limited materials that were available in post-war Germany, and specialised in printmaking. He prepared woodblocks during his time in internment camps as well as at Corio. The technique, in which ink is applied to a carved block of wood and then printed onto paper, results in a strongly delineated composition. There are six woodcuts in the Geelong Grammar collection and several in galleries and private collections around Australia and overseas.

Enter the Chapel through the south door and look up high above the font.

2. CARVED WOODEN PLAQUE

The wooden plaque mounted on the wall was carved by Hirschfeld Mack to accompany the Kiddle Memorial Window, installed in the Chapel in August 1943. Around this same period, Hirschfeld Mack and students carved a wooden crib scene (now lost), which was placed in the Chapel each year for the carol service. In 1947, the crib was displayed at the Exhibition of Ecclesiastical Art held in the Chapter House of St Paul’s Cathedral. The crib and the plaque are both examples of the many ways in which Hirschfeld Mack turned his talents to practical use, both within GGS as well as the wider community. They also demonstrate the Bauhaus philosophy of bridging the gap between the fine and applied arts and, more widely, between art and industry.

Exit the chapel through the north door and turn left to walk up Art School Road. Look for a concrete sculpture of a seal in the grassed area to your right.

3. CONCRETE SEAL

This innocuous looking seal was made by students under the guidance of Hirschfeld Mack in 1943. David Corke (FB’47), one of the students who made the seal, recalls that he and his fellow artists agreed to meet together with ‘Hirsch’ in 100 years, then buried the written agreement within the sculpture. It was originally displayed next to a pond and was part of improvements made to the Art School garden. Influenced by the ideas of Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus, Hirschfeld Mack began a program of large-scale seed planting to beautify the environment around the Art School. A concrete frog once accompanied the seal (see Stop 12) and it is interesting to note that a carved wooden panther perched over the Art School entrance.

Turn to face the Art School ahead of you.

4. TILED PATH

The concrete path directly in front of you leads to the main entrance to the Art School, which, as its architecture suggests, was built in the 1930s. Between 1950 and 1955, pupils designed and made 1323 individual tiles which were laid on the cement path, edged with brick. This project typifies the Bauhaus principle of Gesamtkunstwerk, meaning the synergy of creativity and teamwork in producing an object of beauty as well as functionality. The path gradually grew as tiles were made and fired. As Hirschfeld Mack remarked, ‘Every student, whatever his ability, has the irresistible urge during his schooldays to impress his personality on something … The designing of the tiles, made chiefly during art classes but also worked on during spare time, gave a boy the opportunity to project his personality in a constructive rather than a destructive manner.’ The finished path was said to be ‘of great amusement and interest to visitors and Old Boys’ but was later removed for safety reasons.

Continue along Art School Road and stop before the gates. Look up at the row of windows to your right.

5. ART SCHOOL FLAT

This top floor flat was home to Hirschfeld Mack from 1942 to 1957 and has been restored to approximate how it may have looked during his period of residence. Darling described it as ‘a place for an Art Master who could whole-heartedly devote his life to his task and make it a living Art Centre. It was significant that he lived on the spot, where he was needed.’ Hirschfeld’s wife, Olive, also provided a description: ‘There is a very fine art school, a separate building with numerous classrooms, very good library and a self-contained flat for the art master. My husband considered it to be the best art school he had taught anywhere in the world.’ During Hirschfeld’s time, it was likely that you would have seen jars of milk on the windowsills, left there to turn sour then used to make paint.

Turn right onto Biddlecombe Avenue but stop to look at the gates.

6. ART SCHOOL GATES

The Art School Gates, designed by Hirschfeld Mack and manufactured by GGS students, are an important landmark of the Corio campus as well as a significant representation of Hirschfeld-Mack’s legacy. The motif of figures with linked hands is a recurring theme in his work and refers to his personal philosophies about the meaning of life, centred around peace, unity and the family of humankind — an appropriate symbol of welcome for visitors to Corio. Surmounting the two gate posts are figures representing Sport and Study, sculpted by Rix Wright (Cu’48; son of the painter Hilda Rix Nicholas) and modelled on shot-putter CW Maxwell (Cu’48) and John Gubbins (M’51). The figures were initially modelled in clay, supported by a wooden framework, enabling plaster moulds to be made which were then cast in concrete. They were later recast in bronze thanks to the generosity of Graham Geddes. The gates were opened on 11 July 1949 by Professor Joseph Burke, an eminent art historian who had recently been appointed inaugural professor of fine arts at the University of Melbourne, under the patronage of Sir Keith Murdoch (his son, Rupert, was one of many students who were inspired by Hirschfeld). Burke later wrote the introduction to Hirschfeld-Mack’s introductory survey of the Bauhaus, published in 1963.

Look up at the brick face of the Art School.

7. COPPER FIGURES

Mounted on the wall are two sections of copper figures, which were originally displayed in the Junior School gymnasium (at the end of Biddlecombe Avenue, adjacent to Foreshore Rd) and date from c.1955. Like the tiled path and the gates, this is an example of Gesamtkunstwerk, in which several students collaborated to produce a final work. The abstract figures, designed by Hirschfeld-Mack, represent various forms of athletic pursuits. They were restored and relocated to their current position in 2005.

If the building is open, enter the Art School through the door on your right and proceed upstairs to enter the studio on the right.

8. LIFE OF CHRIST FRIEZE

A thirteen-panelled frieze depicting scenes from the life of Christ was painted on the walls of this studio in 1943 by Hirschfeld Mack and some of his more able pupils, using techniques that he had learnt in the mural workshops at the Bauhaus. Hirschfeld Mack was especially interested in the properties of light and colour. The influence of Early Renaissance artists, specifically the fresco cycles of Fra Angelico, is evident both in the artistic style and the subject matter of the Corio frieze. The final panel, depicting the Ascension, is the sole work of Hirschfeld-Mack, and is typical of his Bauhaus-influenced practice. The figure of Christ superimposed over a map of the world, surrounded by the words ‘May they all be one’ (John 17:21) reflects Hirschfeld-Mack’s pacifist beliefs. It is a fitting example of his spiritual legacy.

Exit the Art School and continue a few metres up Biddlecombe Avenue, to the next building on your right.

9. HIRSCHFELD MACK CENTRE

The Hirschfeld Mack Centre, an extension to the Art School, was opened on 13 September 2003 by artist Dougal Ramsay (P’66). It houses various studios and is also used as an exhibition space.

Continue along Biddlecombe Avenue to the gates leading to Cameron Close.

10. CENTENARY GATES

Like the Art School Gates, the Centenary Gates depict the motif of figures linking hands in an expression of unity and welcome. Surmounting the eight pillars are bronze sculptures symbolising the main activities of the school: Pythagoras (representing mathematics), an anchor (representing water sports), a treble clef (music), an ear of wheat (agriculture), a football (sport) and a palette (art). The school’s Christian heritage is represented by the large crucifix. A ninth pillar was originally planned, to be surmounted by a question mark ‘for all future questions not answered’. Though this symbol was approved by Dr Darling, it was never realised. The founding date of 1857, displayed on the gates, has since been revised to 1855, the year in which GGS first opened as a private diocesan school.

Retrace your steps along Biddlecombe Avenue, turn left into Art School Road, then right onto Tower Road. Enter Main Quad via the door leading from the War Memorial Cloisters, cross the Quad and proceed up the stairs in the west corner. Look up at the stairwell wall.

11. UNDERWATER MURAL

This mural depicting a bright underwater scene was painted in 1955 by Ian Baillieu (P’56), in what was then Perry House. It is an example of Hirschfeld Mack’s encouragement of students to improve and enrich the school’s environment through art.

Exit the Quad back onto Tower Road. The next two stops are located at the far end of Tower Road, next to The Hermitage. To shorten the tour, omit Steps 12 and 13. Otherwise, proceed down Tower Road and stop in front of the gates at the end.

12. FOUNDERS GATE

This set of gates was executed in 1949 by junior school students as an extracurricular project following Hirschfeld Mack’s design. The repeating motif of a bishop’s mitre symbolises the school’s clergymen founders, among them Charles Perry, first Bishop of Melbourne. The gate was officially opened by Dr Darling on Parents’ Day in 1950.

Enter the garden on your left and look for the concrete frog.

13. FROG FOUNTAIN AND TILES, LOWE (MINNOWS) POOL

This concrete frog is one of two casts that were made from a clay sculpture modelled by Rix Wright in 1947. The first cast was placed at the Art School pond, near the concrete seal (Stop 3). The frog spouted water ‘somewhat half-heartedly’ by means of a copper pipe in its mouth and a rudimentary plumbing system. This second cast, made in 1949, became a fountain for the Junior School swimming pool, which was donated by Sheppard and Millar Lowe in memory of their mother, to enable the junior students (known as ‘minnows’) to learn to swim. The outline of the pool has been retained within the existing garden bed and is clearly visible. The tiles around the base of the frog were made by junior students in 1955, with assistance from Mr Evans, the junior school art teacher, who worked under the guidance of Hirschfeld Mack.

Retrace your steps back up Tower Road to the clocktower. To finish the tour, look towards the lagoon beyond the ovals.

14. VIEW OF CORIO

The view from the lagoon, looking back at the clocktower and the familiar school buildings, was the subject of another of Hirschfeld Mack’s woodcuts; a vista that he would readily recognise today. It is an appropriate place to reflect on the legacy of a remarkable man, who came to Corio as a place of refuge and found here an opportunity to pass on the teachings of the Bauhaus to a new generation. In his words: ‘We should train our eyes to be able to see harmony and beauty in the everyday life of our immediate environment, thus creating a source of recreation and enjoyment which may enable us to live a fuller life. This capacity to look thoroughly at things has often given men new hope and harmony in desperate situations.’ As Dr Darling remarked, Geelong Grammar ‘was immensely fortunate to have had the privilege of having him’.