In the centre of the Civic Square at Maryborough, Victoria, a tall pedestal carries a larger-than- life bronze statue of a soldier thrusting forward with his rifle. The sides of the plinth on which the statue stands record the names of citizens of Maryborough who fought for Australia. On the front and the rear faces are two bas-relief panels.
The monument is the work of sculptor Margret Baskerville, who had studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne in the early 1880s. In 1904 she travelled to London to work with sculptors at the Royal College of Art. Returning to Australia in 1906, she assisted Charles Richardson, who had been the teacher of her life classes at the National Gallery School in the 1880s, and who had a studio in Collins Street. At age 53, in 1914, she married Richardson.
She won important commissions in the years before the Great War, including a larger-than-life statue of a former Victorian Premier, Sir Thomas Bent, unveiled in October 1913.
In 1926 the periodical Table Talk commented on the artist, noting her current work:
So slender and frail in appearance that she looks as though a strong wind would blow her away, Margaret Baskerville conceives and executes sculpture that is surprisingly virile in aspect and massive in bulk … Her big war memorial is to stand opposite the post office in Maryborough. It is a bronze seven feet six in height, upon a granite pedestal which has inset bronze panels depicting battle scenes. A most impressive thing.
Table Talk goes on to explore further the incongruity of such ‘big, virile statuary’ coming from such a ‘little woman’, indicating her success ‘in having her designs selected for some of the most effective war memorials for big country towns’. It also mentions her impressive statue of Nurse Edith Cavell in St Kilda Road in Melbourne. Her designs, the journal suggests, have won such favour that they are regarded ‘almost as a standard for a memorial’.
Maryborough’s memorial is much less static than the standard soldier leaning on an inverted rifle, though Baskerville was commissioned to make several of these. It is also more impressive and energetic than her most celebrated piece, the statue of Sir Thomas Bent at Brighton.
Ken Scarlett, 'Baskerville, Margaret Francis Ellen (1861–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/baskerville-margaret-francis-ellen-5153/..., published first in hardcopy 1979.
Australian Women Artists, Caroline Ambrus, Irrepressible Press, Canberra, 1992