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Dr Arthur Fleischmann

1896 - 1990

He was born in Bratislava in 1896, but lived most of his life in London. He studied medicine in Budapest and Prague and qualified as a medical doctor. Immediately after qualifying, he turned his attention and energy on sculpture and was awarded a scholarship to the Master School of Sculpture, Vienna.

In 1937 he left Europe for South Africa where he exhibited before travelling to Indonesia. He spent 2 idylic years on the island of Bali before being forced to flee to Australia as the Japanese invaded. He arrived in Sydney in 1939 where he stayed for 10 years, becoming part of the Merioola artist commune and establishing a connection with Australia that remained strong until his death in 1990.

In 1949 he travelled by ship to England with plans to return to Bratislava, but he met his wife Joy in London and made it his home for over 40 years. Fleischmann quickly established himself as a portrait sculptor in London, completing portrait busts of Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II from life.

During the 1950's he pioneered the use of Perspex as a sculptural medium. He began by carving figural subjects from laminated blocks, developing the tools and techniques by trial and error. In the 1960's he constructed more abstract forms, building them up in horizontal layers from the "raw" sheets. He introduced water as an integral element of the sculptures adding a flesh to the skeleton of Perspex and creating the final living form of the sculptures.

Central to Fleischmann's work was his devotion to the Catholic church. A major part of his creative output was of a religious theme. When, in June 1986, he celebrated his 90th birthday, he declared, "I like to think I am a travelling sculptor absorbing every new idea. I don't know the meaning of routine,Every day holds surprises".

In his last days, Fleischmann said repeatedly that it was most important for the best designers in the world to design childrens toys. He explained that the first influence on the development of a human being comes from the toys with which it plays. It is interesting and characteristic that the artist should leave this as one of his parting messages.

Fleischmann's last work completed before his death is a Perspex water sculpture entitled "Tribute to the Discovery of DNA", which was placed in the new wing of the NSW State Library, Sydney, Australia, almost 50 years after he completed the bronze doors in the same building. It combines his complementary passions of art and science.

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