[Editor: This untitled article, regarding the design of the Australian penny coin and the Kangaroo and Map stamp, was published in the “Trade reports” section of The Bookfellow (Sydney, NSW), 1 May 1912.]
[The Commonwealth Ministry does not shine as a star in the field of art]
The Commonwealth Ministry does not shine as a star in the field of art. We owe it a copper coinage which we take to be the ugliest coinage extant in civilization. Here is the reverse of the Commonwealth penny — so barren of idea, so common in design:
Now the Ministry is represented as approving this design for a postage-stamp:
It is said that the design may be altered by the omission of the clump of grass that is supposed to represent the indigenous “kangaroo-grass.” The designer has used this to help his balance. But here again, what a barren, what a common design! — like a schoolboy’s work, and with the kangaroo apparently twisted out of drawing. Even with the help of colour, the mean pattern cannot be hidden.
There is still a more serious objection. In Europe and America the idea is firmly rooted that Australia is a small island where a few hardy pioneers hunt the wild kangaroos. Any representation of Australia as an island, as in this design, is a representation to avoid. This country wants people. It should be shown to possible immigrants in its true size, the size of the United States. Any emphasis on “island” defeats patriotic intention. Inevitably an island is thought of as “small” by the mass of people. We should develop the Fifth Continent idea.
It is a mistake, also, to emphasise the kangaroo — a wild animal — involving the idea that Australia is a wilderness. To attract people, especially women, this country should be shown civilised, progressive. A design of an Australian farmer regarding distant city spires would bring us people. A lone kangaroo on an island will certainly deter them.
The Commonwealth Ministry’s postage stamp, executed to that design, will represent poor art and bad psychology.
The Bookfellow (Sydney, NSW), 1 May 1912, p. 133, columns 2-3 (Trade Edition Supplement)
Commonwealth = of or relating to the Commonwealth of Australia
Ministry = (in the context of various British Commonwealth countries, including Australia) the Ministers of the Crown (including the Prime Minister); government ministers who are responsible for overseeing government departments, formulating government policy, and making decisions on issues affecting the country
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