Visions of a republic is a history, a biography and an art book which publishes for the first time the work of French-Australian artist Lucien Henry. Lucien’s major work – ‘Australian decorative arts: one hundred studies and designs’ – comprises beautiful watercolors which reveal his vision for a public art and architecture based on Australian flora and fauna. Five chapters cover Henry’s life in Paris, his exile in the South Pacific, his impact on pre-Federation Sydney, his ambitious project for the creation of a national identity, his role in architecture and interior design, and the legacy of his vision.
‘Henry’s accomplishment during the twelve years he spent in Sydney is impressive. He was remarkably receptive to the creative opportunities in a society so different from his own, and he established himself at the creative centre of that society with remarkable speed.
‘This book and the exhibition accomplishes an important act of reparation in publishing and displaying Henry’s designs …At last we can see Henry’s brilliantly coloured designs based on waratahs, staghorns, flannel flowers, seahorses, lyrebird capitals, and emu-egg and starfish friezes. We can now dream of his crematorium in the form of a colossal stenocarpus…
‘Or we could dream that some benefactor might realise the design for a drinking fountain formed from lyrebirds and staghorn ferns or the waratah pleasure dome in the Botanic Gardens with iron-bark columns and staghorn capitals’. – From the foreword by Virginia Spate, Power Professor of Fine Art, University of Sydney.