Australian Biography: Tom Bass


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2006, 26 Minutes. Exempt from classification.

Tom Bass was one of Australia's leading sculptors, having created many of the country's most significant public works. His commissions included pieces for the National Library, Canberra's Civic Square and numerous churches and universities. However, none of his sculptures are in art gallery collections. His philosophy was that the sculptor is the seer or spokesperson for the community, whose role is to create "public totems”, not “mantlepiece ornaments”. “I saw the whole of Australia as a blank sheet that had to be written on,” said Tom.

Born into poverty in Lithgow, NSW in 1916, it was his childhood experiences in Gundagai that inspired Tom to become an artist. After working as a swaggie and at other odd jobs, and surviving on a diet of rolled oats in every conceivable form, he studied at Datillo Rubbo Art School and later at the National Art School. In the 1970s, he established his own sculpture school and he was still passionately teaching at the age of 88.

Tom’s own life and work had a deep spiritual dimension, which he shared in this interview. Married twice, and the father of six children, he reflected on God, religion, war, beauty, family, marriage and his vision of public art and sculpture.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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NB The Australian Biography series (1-11) are only available for sale within the territories of Australia and New Zealand.



Director/Producer/Writer: Rod Freedman

Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 2006

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: Visual Art and Design (Sculpture); Fine Arts; Art History; English.


Sculptured Seal

Sculpture Australia 69

SKU 200402201
Brand Film Australia

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