Bronze Sculpture of Yagan, commissioned for the National Museum, Canberra, Australia.
Interview from RTRFM radio station.
“Robert Hitchcock, known for the creation and formation of some of Western Australia’s most iconic and historically renowned sculptural art, joins us in the studio to discuss his iconic 1984 statue of the Noongar leader Yagan.”
From Yagan’s Wikipedia Page:
“Yagan (/ˈjeɪɡən/; c. 1795 – 11 July 1833) was an Aboriginal Australian warrior from the Noongar people. Yagan was pursued by the local authorities after he killed Erin Entwhistle, a servant of farmer Archibald Butler. It was an act of retaliation after Thomas Smedley, another of Butler’s servants, shot at a group of Noongar people stealing potatoes and fowls, killing one of them. The government offered a bounty for Yagan’s capture, dead or alive, and a young settler, William Keats, shot and killed him. He is considered a legendary figure by the Noongar.”
From the mid-1970s, members of the Noongar community lobbied for the erection of a statue of Yagan as part of the WAY 1979 sesquicentennial celebrations. Their requests were refused… Despite this setback, the Noongar community persisted, establishing a Yagan Committee and running a number of fund-raising drives. Eventually, sufficient funds were collected to allow the commissioning of Australian sculptor Robert Hitchcock to create a statue. The result was a life-size statue in bronze, depicting Yagan standing naked with a spear held across his shoulders. Hitchcock’s statue of Yagan was officially opened by Yagan Committee chairperson Elizabeth Hanson on 11 September 1984. It stands on Heirisson Island in the Swan River near Perth”
Letter to the sculptor following delivery of the Yagan sculpture.
As you know historically I have been collecting sculptures for more than forty years. As the Chairman of the Committee of Enquiry into Museums and National Collections which recommended the creation of our National Museum, I carefully watch the collections grow. The story of Yagan I felt deserved space in the National Museum.i thought I would like to get an Australian sculptor to create in bronze a life-size sculpture of Yagan the Warrior.
I saw your work on the internet and immediately recognised real talent. I then discussed the idea with the director of our National Museum Dr. Mathew Trinca. His enthusiasm amazed me and being from Western Australia knew the Yagan story, he said to have a life-size bronze of Yagan would be a major acquisition for the Museum. That is when I contacted you.
About twelve months later I arranged to have Yagan picked up from your studio. Yagan arrived at one of the Museum’s storage buildings and due to heart problems I could not travel to Canberra to see the sculpture. Last weekend I attended the opening of a new exhibition at the NMA and a farewell to the retiring Director who took me to the warehouse to see Yagan. I took with me my wife Ann and daughter Heidi and her husband Sean on arrival in front of Yagan we were speechless my daughter was overwhelmed and shed tears. Robert your talent exceeded all of our expectations.
Yagan in a word is magnificent. A new exhibit is planned to open in January 2025. This will be the story of the First Australians interfacing with the new arrivals from Europe, Yagan will be on permanent display.
In short thank you Robert you are Australia’s Michelangelo.
Sent with great appreciation and warmest regards.
Peter H. Pigott AM.
19th December 2023