William Leslie Bowles
Pyrmont sandstone sculpture
Fitzroy Gardens, Hotham Street entrance
Born in Leichhardt, NSW, in 1885, William Leslie Bowles travelled to London on a McConnell scholarship, where he studied at the South London School of Sculpture and the Royal Academy of Arts. He returned to Australia in 1924, working first for Australian War Memorial, where he produced models for dioramas, and then undertaking many public commissions.
In 1935, Bowles was commissioned by Melbourne City Council to produce three sculptures to replace the Fitzroy Gardens' original statuary, which was in a state of disrepair. This work in Pyrmont sandstone depicts a mermaid with a large fish, supported by waves. In many cultures there is a tradition of representing the mythological mermaid, but in Western art this figure is often associated with seduction and death.
Along with Mermaid and Fish, Bowles sculpted Boy and Pelican and Diana and the Hounds for Fitzroy Gardens. This piece was unveiled with Boy and Pelican in October 1936.