sculptor, 'born in New York, brought up in Buffalo, and living in Boston’, had a rich early life. Her father was interested in natural history, while her pianist mother was interested in classical and advanced music – Debussy and Bartok. Wagner was sung in their summer house at Eagle Lake by visiting German opera singers. Margel Harris and her sister studied modern dance, 'as “movement” rather than interpretation’, with a pupil of Isadora Duncan ( see Bernice Agar ). However, she always wanted to be a sculptor and was taught to work in clay from the model by Charles Grafley and Frederick Allen at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1930 she married Frank Hinder , whom she had met at Emil Bisttram’s summer school at Moriah, Lake Champlain. With their daughter, Enid, they came to Frank’s native Australia in 1934. Although Margel experienced severe culture shock she never returned to America, travelling overseas only in her seventies, to China. She made her first carving, Doves , soon after she arrived; it was shown five years later in Exhibition 1 (1939).

The sculptor Gerald Lewers’s understanding of the qualities of wood and stone gave direction to her subsequent years of carving. No sculptural style had yet emerged that was as modern as the paintings of the Australian modernist group, of which she was a part, although Eleonore Lange in her catalogue introduction to Exhibition 1 advocated a sculpture which 'eliminated natural appearance, silhouette and surface modelling to concentrate on shape relations’. Margel was already working towards this, her work suggesting primitive and eastern aspects of modern art.

During the war Margel worked as model-maker for Professor Dakin and made models used in advertisements. Resuming sculpture in 1943, she became interested in movement and in getting away from a solid shape with a central axis – in becoming anti-classic. Her many bird and animal sculptures now reflected moments in the process of life; a crane’s tail unfolding became an abstract organic carving. By 1952 wood had been banished as too sentimental. She wanted to be spontaneous, which was hard in wood, so turned to metal for the rest of her career. Her 'space-age’ period was ushered in by two competitions in 1949-53. Her new work embraced the theory of Gabo and Maholy-Nagy – constructed out of space and time. Margel’s competition model for the Pinkerton Memorial used cement, perspex and cast aluminium in a constructivist way to articulate space. It was in her second competition piece, The Unknown Political Prisoner , that this quality of articulation was perfected.

Compared to Gabo, Margel’s work is asymmetrical, more intuitively wayward. While she is always trying to get away from a centre, from gravity, the sadness, she says, is that one cannot. Compared to Hepworth, she uses form in a less absolute sense. She feels Hepworth’s work is static. The asymmetry, the necessity to move around the work to comprehend its form, became central to her art and led to the revolving constructions begun in 1954. Her later career includes large public sculptures, her masterpiece being the Captain Cook Memorial Fountain in Civic Park, Newcastle (1961-66).

Free, Renée Note: primary
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