sculptor, was born in Berlin, Germany, on 25 November 1918. In 1951 she came to Melbourne – a city which struck her then as a sculptural desert – and spent the next eight or nine years adjusting to her new life, having her children and augmenting the family income by making and designing jewellery. Only a few sculptures were produced during this period, but in 1959 King, who had mostly worked in wood and stone, started welding. Her initial training had been as a wood-carver in Germany (1935-38), then at the Royal Academy in London and the Glasgow School of Art. After the war she had worked in London, where she held her first solo exhibition in 1949. A chance to travel to France and New York in 1950 confirmed the latter as the most exciting city she had experienced. There she saw Jackson Pollock’s paintings and made contact with members of the New York School, as well as exhibiting in a group show. Back at London she met and married an Australian artist, Graham King.
King’s early steel sculptures reflected a break with the past in the demands made by her use of a new material and in the inspiration and challenge offered by the vast spaces of the Australian landscape. Later she began to make steel maquettes: some complete in themselves, some models for large-scale works. Her first commission for a large sculpture came in 1971 with the RAAF Memorial in Canberra, followed in the same year by the Fred Schonell Memorial Fountain at Queensland University. These projects introduced King to collaborative work with engineers and welders and to the sort of detailed preparation with models and computation drawings critical to the monumental Forward Surge (1974-82), commissioned by the Victorian Arts Centre. Other works commissioned since the mid-1970s include sculptures for the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, the Australian National University, Woden Valley Hospital, the State Bank of Victoria, the NSW Royal Blind Society Sculpture Award, ICI House in Melbourne, the McClelland Gallery Sculpture Park and the State Superannuation Board.
From 1969 King held regular solo exhibitions and participated in group shows and, from 1980, in the Sculpture Triennial exhibitions. She was a founding member of the Group of Four in 1953 and its successor during the 1960s, Centre Five. Both organisations aimed to promote public understanding and acceptance of sculpture, particularly through lectures and exhibitions, and were critical in creating a more receptive climate for it. Her educational interests also involved her in lecturing in sculpture at the School of Early Childhood Studies (1961-75) and at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in 1976-87.
King is represented in institutional, state and regional galleries and in private collections in Australia, Europe, UK and USA. In 1984 she was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia. Further recognition of her contributions and achievements has come with honorary doctorates from Deakin University (1990) and RMIT (1993).
‘The great circular shape of Summer Solstice bends forward around a vertical axis, a fold line … this time on both front and rear planes, and they reach … to a small, shapely hollow, a space embraced at the culmination point. Narrow sides widen at the middle and converge again towards the top, creating a counterbalance to the vertical axis. Gleaming silver, the two large surfaces of this stainless steel sculpture are scored all over by grinding, catching ambient light and colour, articulating a sculpture of light, while precluding distracting reflections. Shining brushed sides, smooth like continuous satin ribbons, link the large dished planes and describe the small ‘fluid’ void. … More than anything, light becomes the overwhelming subject, Summer Solstice acting as its very source, as the Sun is ours.’
– Judith Trimble, Art & Architectural Historian, 2011
Inge King was born in Berlin in 1915 and studied at the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts, the Royal Academy in London and the Glasgow School of Art before moving to Australia in 1950. King was at the forefront of developing and diversifying non-figurative sculpture in Australia and actively exhibited both nationally and internationally until she died at the age of 100 in 2016.
King held over 28 solo exhibitions throughout her prolific career including retrospective exhibitions at the Bendigo Regional Gallery in 1995 and the National Gallery of Victoria in 1992.
Major commissions include monumental works at McClelland Gallery, VIC; the Arts Centre, Melbourne; the University of Melbourne; Heide Museum of Modern Art, VIC and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Inge King was awarded an Order of Australia in 1984 and in 2008 became the recipient of the Visual Arts Emeritus Award by the Australian Arts Council, recognizing her pivotal role in raising the profile of modern sculpture in this country. Her work is held by numerous collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Artbank, Sydney; Parliament House, Canberra and several regional and university galleries.
“Inge King’s sculptures and contribution to the arts in this country and beyond are unquestionably significant. Inge, a liberated woman, was a thinker of clarity and a massive achiever. The wellbeing of Australia’s culture is richer for her and she will be sadly missed by those that did and did not know her. Those of us that did were touched by her magic.”