French connection to imposing Hinkler artwork

Bert Hinkler bust by George Virine
The two-metre bust of pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler in Bundaberg by French sculptor George Virine.

Bundaberg's imposing bust of pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler was completed 60 years ago in 1959 by French sculptor George Virine.

The work was commissioned by Bundaberg City Council and received widespread acclaim.

The bust was believed to be the biggest in Australia at the time when it was erected in Anzac Park, standing six metres when mounted.

George Virine Bert Hinkler
How Canberra publication Good Neighbour reported work on George Virine's bust of Bundaberg pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler on 1 September 1959.

George Virine was a celebrated sculptor who spent three years in a Nazi concentration camp during World War Two.

He migrated to Australia in 1951 and created images of King George VI and later the Queen to thank his new country.

Many of his works were already being exhibited in overseas galleries, reflecting the hardship and sadness of war.

Canberra publication Good Neighbour reported on 1 September 1959 that Virine had just completed his “massive 6ft high bust of pioneer Australian aviator Bert Hinkler”.

“The bust, which is believed to be the biggest ever made in Australia, was commissioned by the City Council of Bundaberg, Queensland — Hinkler's home town. When mounted on its quarter-moon concrete base the bust will stand 20ft high in the city's Anzac Park.

“George carved and moulded the bust from a ton of terracotta clay. After a plaster mould has been taken, it will be cast in white concrete.”

Virine taught modelling, sculpture and art restoration at the Brisbane Central Technical College.

In 1959 he had works in the Queensland Conservatorium of music, several hospitals and government buildings.

George Virine died in Brisbane on 1 June 2017, aged 97. His works are still exhibited today.

George Virine Bert Hinkler
Sculptor George Virine at work on his bust of Bundaberg's pioneer aviator Bert Hinkler.

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