Skip to main content
News_

The who’s who of our campus statues

5 October 2022
Let us introduce you to some of our oldest campus locals
The University of Sydney is Australia’s oldest University, founded in 1850, and with all that history comes a lot of cool gems. Get to know some of the University’s statues that stand watch over our grounds. Do you know where to find them on campus?

The Student

What's more relateable than the hunched figure of a student reading a book?

The Student was borne from a public art competition for a sculpture to be placed on the grounds of the campus. It is by the sculptor and teacher Tom Bass, and was acquired by the University in 1953, making it the University’s earliest modernist public artwork.

Bass said that it expresses the idea "that the university is not just a place of teaching but also of learning."

The Student is reminiscent of a monolithic adaptation of Rodin's famous sculpture, The Thinker, carved from sandstone and weighing in at a hefty 1,220 kilograms. 

Spring

This leading lady is a little bit of a mystery. Also known as The Bathing Lady, not a lot of detail about her origin is to be found in the University records.

Spring is by the German sculptor Franz Linden and is believed to be dated to 1910. She was transferred to the University from the Sydney College of Advanced Education when it was disestablished in 1989. 

Linden's bronze sculpture is set in a sandstone pool designed by May Marsden in 1934, who was a staff member of the Teachers College.

She makes a particularly striking sight when jacaranda season blooms, blanketing the pool with petals. 

Grotesque

No, we're not being mean! More commonly referred to as a Gargoyle, did you know this is actually called a grotesque? Gargoyles are stone carvings with a fountain or water spout feature – figures that are purely decorative like this one are known as grotesques. Impress your classmates with your knowledge of gothic architecture next time you’re wandering through the Quad!

Gargoyles and grotesques have a long history of being carved to protect buildings and ward off evil spirits. There are a number located around the University, including one shaped like a Kangaroo! Next time you're walking through our sandstone halls, take a look skyward and keep your eyes peeled for any grotesques. 

Gilgamesh

If you're a regular gym-goer, you might have come across Gilgamesh on the way to your work out. But who is he and how did he end up on our campus? 

Gilgamesh was an Assyrian King of Uruk dating back to somewhere around 2500 BC. He's most well known in today's society thanks to the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem written on clay tablet that's one of the world's oldest surviving texts of literature. 

'The Epic of Gilgamesh' is one of the oldest written stories and is the basis of many myths, legends and tales, including modern ones. The story goes that Gilgamesh is part God and part man. He sets out on a quest to seek immortality. During his quest, he finds compassion, friendship, courage, love and peace.

This bronze metal statue of Gilgamesh by Assyrian-Australian sculptor Lewis Batros was donated by the Gilgamesh Cultural Centre on behalf of the Assyrian community to celebrate the University of Sydney's sesquicentenary (try saying that four times!) in 2000.


We’ve told you the who, what, when and why of these statues, but do you know where to find them? Be on the lookout next Monday 1 and Tuesday 2 August when these figures will be getting into the University spirit as part of Welcome Fest. Track them down, take a photo and share it on social (make sure you tag Sydney Uni and the USU!), for your chance to win a free University of Sydney hoodie.  

Head over to our socials for more information and sneaky location tips:

Facebook | Instagram | Tik Tok


Source: The University of Sydney Museum Collections

Related articles