Artists / Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

(b.1920)

Leopoldine Mimovich OAM enjoys a world-renowned reputation as an artist. Her oeuvre includes works in timber, bronze, painting, drawing and printmaking. Trained in Austria through the Depression and war years, she migrated to Australia in 1949. She quickly established her place as an accomplished sculptor and throughout her extraordinary career received numerous awards, including the Order of Australia Medal for services to sculpture (1985) and the Certificate of Merit for Distinguished Achievement from the World Who’s Who of Women (1986). She undertook many commissions for Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox cathedrals, churches, hospitals, schools and private and corporate collectors. She was an active member of the Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, the Victorian Artists Society and is a Life Member of the Victorian Sculpture Society.

 

Leopoldine Mimovich (nee Deflorian) was born the second of five children on June 25, 1920 in Neumarkt. This was part of the Italian controlled area of what had been the Austrian Tyrol prior to the German defeat in WWI. Nicknamed Poldi, she was singled out in her class as especially gifted in art. She finished school at 14 during the Depression and although she was eligible to attend art school, finances were such that it was not possible. She worked with her gentle artist father who taught her gilding, sign writing and stencil work. He was also a restorer and taught her how to restore icons and public art.

 

The pretty red haired Poldi met her first husband, Othmar Vockner at 16. He was a 23 year old professional soldier who played guitar with the army band. Within a year of meeting they planned to marry but red tape and Nazi bullying, which for a time left her officially stateless, delayed her marriage until 1939 when she was 19.  With the outbreak of war her husband was sent to the front in Poland, Greece, Yugoslavia and finally Russia where he died on February 21, 1941. While he was away Poldi continued to work with her father until she took a flat with her sister in Vienna in 1940. Following the death of her husband she enrolled in art school under the well-known Austrian Professor Gusty Mundt-Amman. Sculpture was linked to craft and she was taught the technical aspects of clay modelling and drawing. Again recognised as gifted by her teachers, in 1943 Mundt-Amman arranged a place for Poldi in Upper Austria at the College of Religious Art in Hallstadt with the Director, Professor Pfaffenhofer. The extensive academic curriculum under Professor Röthboeck was geared for entry into the prestigious Viennese Academy of Art and included studies in physics, history and literature

 

In 1944 the school was closed by the Nazis and Poldi was conscripted to work for the German war effort in a stalag (prison) office where forced labour was used to provide ammunition. Here she met the famed Professor Herman Musger, also assigned to the factory, whose influence and night-time drawing lessons proved invaluable to the young artist. Immediately after the war she resumed her studies in Hallstadt graduating in 1947 as a qualified teacher with a Diploma of Art. She relocated to St Johann, Salzburg (her flat in Vienna was now in the Russian zone) where she met her second husband Ljubisa Mimovich, a stateless Serbian officer who had been a prisoner of the Gestapo. They married in 1948 and Poldi was once again deemed stateless for marrying a foreigner. The following year they set sail for Australia as displaced persons on the MV Skaugum where they started their new life at Bonegilla, the migrant hostel in Victoria, before finding independent accommodation in the western suburbs and later in Kew.

 

Leopoldine Mimovich’s experience touches the core of difficulties experienced by many Europeans. Much of the highly rated public art in Europe was of religious sculpture but this was not the case in her adopted country. Sculpture classes were taught as part of a wider curriculum at RMIT or privately, and held a secondary status to painting. As immigrants, the Mimovichs were given identity cards and required to work for two years in menial employment regardless of their qualifications. Poldi Mimovich was assigned to the Pelaco shirt factory where her sympathetic employer, after seeing her drawings, gave her early release to pursue her sculpting career. For a time she worked as a carver for Myer and privately on commissions that slowly came her way. She joined the Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, founded in 1906, where she was instantly recognised as a professional artist and became a serving member on the committee.

 

Mimovich’s  reputation as a sculptor grew rapidly and in 1956, within seven years of her arrival, she held her first solo exhibition at the Wiregrass Gallery (since closed). That same year she was diagnosed with a tumour behind her eye and her recovery was slow and painful, however she continued working whenever possible.

 

A great influence in the direction of her career came from Henry Rohr, a friend and mentor in the early 1960s. He purchased a carving and without mentioning anything to Mimovich he had it cast in bronze. She had never before contemplated having her work cast. Father Henry Wilkinson SJ recognised the significance of being able to produce multiple copies of her beautiful carvings and understood the potential to bring to Catholics and ordinary people religious artefacts that were both intelligible and affordable. In 1972 Rohr published a book of verse with each piece of his prose in response to illustrations of Mimovich’s sculptures. In 1977 Rohr published the Sculpture of Leopoldine Mimovich which was followed by a solo exhibition in 1978 at the Victorian Artists’ Society, East Melbourne and another solo exhibition at the same venue two years later. Mimovich enjoyed copper plate etchings in which she remembered the joy of her own childhood, her family, her deceased husband and the village she grew up in. This body of work led her to publish Memories Guide My Hands in 1985. This beautiful volume is no longer available and it is some years since she has made prints.

 

Since her arrival in 1949, Mimovich has had many return trips to Europe but Australia remains her home. She in represented in numerous public and private collections globally, and closer to home her work lines the paths of the Alexander Gardens in Kew and graces the local library.

Works

The Lovers 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

The Lovers

Bronze

23cm

Kneeling Nude 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Kneeling Nude

Bronze

27cm

Protection 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Protection

Bronze

17cm

Volare 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Volare

Bronze

24cm

Sleeping child 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Sleeping child

Bronze

13cm

Sleeping child 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Sleeping child

Bronze

13cm

Tumbler 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Tumbler

Bronze

10cm

Girl with Flowers 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Girl with Flowers

Bronze

15cm

Girl with Rabbit 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Girl with Rabbit

Bronze

11cm

Swinging Madonna 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Swinging Madonna

Bronze

27cm

The Dancers 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

The Dancers

Bronze

22.5cm

Two Girls 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Two Girls

Bronze

14.5

Mother and Child 2012 by Leopoldine Mimovich OAM

Mother and Child

Bronze

25.5x16cm

Purchase for $2,250.00