From 1931-1942, RALPH TRAFFORD WALKER studied classical drawing, painting and sculpture at art schools in Brisbane and Sydney. William Dobell, Margaret Olley, Tom Bass, James Cant, Justin O'Brien and Godfrey Miller were co-students and colleagues.
Ralph continued his creative work with total dedication throughout his life. He lived quietly at the family home in Balgowlah, Sydney, exhibited infrequently and made little attempt to sell his work.
For many years, his studio was a small timber yurt in the back yard of the home, concealed by the bush garden designed by his wife Jean, who is an artist, potter, sculptor, author and landscape designer. When Ralph died in 2003, few people knew of his artistic achievements; those who did, were effusive in praise of his work.
"Ralph is an enigma. He doesn't seek applause ..." Phillip Adams AO, author, commentator, broadcaster, collector of antiquities, 1997
"I was in Australia last year. Who is this man? Why did I not hear of this man? Why didn't I see his work?" Tommaso Trini. Italian designer, art critic, author. Personal comment on viewing Ralph's work in Milan, 1978
"What has been hiding in Australia - unbelievable ..." Gisella Scheinberg. Author, art critic, director of Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney, 1987
" ... this extraordinary body of works ... has gone unnoticed ... our art time-line is inaccurate due to his absence ... generations of Australian artists are missing out on this master's pedagogy" Stephen Fearnley. Digital media artist, film maker, composer and teacher, 2005.
"The basis of my work from the beginning has been the study of the human figure. I felt unattracted to the bleakness of the abstract and other fads of modern art. The figure still held for me all the warmth and mystery and infinite variety of nature. I believe also that the best art is produced by long traditions" Ralph Trafford Walker 1993.
"He draws like a Michelangelo" Pamille Berg. Curator of works for Parliament House, Canberra; 2003
"Rembrandt, Delacroix and Rodin drew like Ralph" Phillip Adams AO, author, commentator, broadcaster; 1997
"Ralph is the best draughtsman in Australia" Henry Cornwallis Gibbons. Teacher, Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney; 1930s
"Ralph draws like an angel" Richard Leplastrier. Sydney architect, lecturer; opening RalphÂ´s retrospective at Manly Art Gallery; 2001
" ... each line is perfect" Gisella Scheinberg. Author, critic, Director of Holdsworth Galleries, Sydney; 1987.
Born 7 January 1912 in Sydney, RALPH TRAFFORD WALKER was the youngest of five boys. His father was an itinerant Methodist minister, so his early years were spent travelling throughout New South Wales. A voracious reader with a great natural talent for drawing, he was initially self-taught and left school at the age of 15.
At 19 he attended Central Technical College in Brisbane and began his classical training.
At 21 he returned to Sydney to study under Raynor Hoff at East Sydney Technical College (now National Art School) and attended the Royal Art School under Dattilo-Rubbo and Sydney Long. He studied drawing and painting under Henry Cornwallis Gibbons at Julian Ashton Art School. He also taught art at a number of Sydney private schools including Barker College, Sydney Grammar School and Knox Grammar. He won a design competition for interior wall panels for the Sydney Water Board, and in 1941 at the age of 29, was commissioned to produce 16 bronze door panels for the front entrance of the Mitchell Library, Sydney.
During the war, he was an Official War Artist assigned to the Military History Section and was posted to New Guinea, Bouganville and New Britain.
He was appointed in 1944 to create dioramas, sculptures and drawings for the Australian War Memorial; and in the early 50s, completed 4 bronze panels for the Electrolytic Zinc Company head office in Sydney.
It was at the Melbourne Technical College that he met Edith Jean Brown, a fellow artist and teacher. They wrote to each other when he was sent to New Guinea and they married in 1947. They lived first in Manly and then moved to the house in Balgowlah that was to be their family home and studios for the next 50 years.
During the 1950s, they ran HEBB Studios a small family pottery, from premises in Brookvale, and in the 1960s, Ralph worked for ABC TV at Gore Hill as a graphic designer for television productions.
From the constant base that was their home at Balgowlah near Manly, Ralph and his wife Jean periodically set out exploring the varied landscapes that Australia offered. On family expeditions with their three children, Elizabeth, Ian and Rohan, he revelled in the unique character and mood of the bush which he captured with a keen eye and deft hand.
Working every day in a studied and methodical routine, when not interrupted by family and the necessities of the wider world, he would be found in his studio peacefully and gently making lines and clay come to life.
Exhibiting occasionally to critical acclaim, he was entirely focused on his artistic pursuits and wary of the whims of fashion.
A reflective and measured artist working whenever he could, Ralph produced his art for its own sake and was intensely uncommunicative about it. If queried on its purpose or intention, would always say that his art should speak for itself and that he had nothing more to add.
He had many favourite subjects - Australian history and landscapes, mother and child, horses, children with animals, children in the bush, dancers, Aboriginal people, and biblical and classical mythology.
Over the years, his approach was to explore and revisit themes, styles and media in a gradual evolution, constantly striving for purity and immediacy of expression