A sculptor’s legacy – in stone, and online

Grotesque of Dr Rhyl K Hinwood AM CF

Dr Rhyl Kingston Hinwood AM CF, grotesque carved in 1993.

Dr Rhyl Kingston Hinwood AM CF, grotesque carved in 1993.

By Suzanne Parker

A new, free e-book tells the stories of how many famous faces, fanciful figures, sweeping scenes, and flora and fauna were brought to life in stone at UQ. 


The University of Queensland is famous for its sandstone carvings ‘hiding in plain sight’ – many in the treasured heart of the St Lucia campus, the Great Court – and a new e-book has just been launched to tell 'the stories behind the stories'.

Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM CF (1940–), UQ’s current University Sculptor and only the second person in the University’s history to claim this title, is passionate about passing on the story of the carvings’ creation as part of her legacy – especially after the first University Sculptor’s notes and records were lost forever after being destroyed in a house fire decades ago.

To ensure this would not happen with her tenure, in 2012 she developed the UQ Sandstone Carvings Database Inventory with Australian Environment International Pty Ltd at the UQ Art Museum, and subsequently published a book in 2016 with UQ’s Office of Marketing and Communications (OMC), Carving a history: a guide to the Great Court.

“I had long wanted to write about my work as University Sculptor,” Dr Hinwood said.

“And when OMC was developing a comprehensive guide for visitors to the Great Court, upon hearing of my work with the UQ Art Museum, we collaborated on the production of a pocket-sized guide to the carvings.”

Working again with UQ’s Marketing and Communication team, Dr Hinwood has now gone one step further to produce A sculptor’s vision: creating a legacy in stone, a new e-book that tells the fascinating story of how those carvings came to be.

UQ Gatton frieze in grayscale

Evolution of agriculture, by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, 1987: a frieze at UQ Gatton depicting Queensland’s agricultural industries of wool, beef, dairy, cotton, fruit, sugar cane and wheat, overlaid with representations of the weather extremes that impact all agriculture in the state.

UQ Gatton sandstone frieze

Evolution of agriculture, by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, 1987: a frieze at UQ Gatton depicting Queensland’s agricultural industries of wool, beef, dairy, cotton, fruit, sugar cane and wheat, overlaid with representations of the weather extremes that impact all agriculture in the state.

UQ Gatton frieze in grayscale

Evolution of agriculture, by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, 1987: a frieze at UQ Gatton depicting Queensland’s agricultural industries of wool, beef, dairy, cotton, fruit, sugar cane and wheat, overlaid with representations of the weather extremes that impact all agriculture in the state.

UQ Gatton sandstone frieze

Evolution of agriculture, by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, 1987: a frieze at UQ Gatton depicting Queensland’s agricultural industries of wool, beef, dairy, cotton, fruit, sugar cane and wheat, overlaid with representations of the weather extremes that impact all agriculture in the state.


“I had long wanted to write about my work as University Sculptor.”
Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM CF

Carved in stone, but lost to time


Dr Hinwood’s memoir captures the later period of the Great Court’s development, but unfortunately we only have glimpses of that insight from the tenure of the first University Sculptor, John Muller.

John Muller, University Sculptor

John Muller, UQ's first University Sculptor.

John Muller, UQ's first University Sculptor.

Here’s what we do know – a German stonemason, he migrated to Australia in 1903 and later set up his own business as a designer/ modeller/ stonemason in Brisbane, working on projects such as the State Treasury Building’s extension, the Masonic Temple’s development, and the decoration of the new City Hall (under Daphne Mayo).

He and business partners Frederick James McGowan and Frederick Pilling – also stone carvers – won the UQ contract in 1939.

Their remit was to enhance the Great Court with extensive sculptural adornment to alleviate the severe simplicity of the outer walls, by “embodying the Australian spirit of art with English culture”.

Their brief specified that they were to record the most important events in Queensland’s history, Queensland’s principal flora and fauna, a fully representative collection of Aboriginal customs and social life, and the coats of arms of all universities in the British Commonwealth and other principal universities in the world.

Wall inscription

An inscription created for the Forgan Smith tower by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

An inscription created for the Forgan Smith tower by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Coats of arms

Several Australian university coats of arms awaiting installation, circa 1950s.

Several Australian university coats of arms awaiting installation, circa 1950s.

Wall frieze of historical scene

Australia 1901, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953: a frieze depicting scenes at the ceremonial swearing-in of Australia’s first Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun.

Australia 1901, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953: a frieze depicting scenes at the ceremonial swearing-in of Australia’s first Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun.

Black flying fox roundel

Black flying fox, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Black flying fox, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Grotesque of a mariner

Mariner, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Mariner, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Roundel of a November lily

November lily, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

November lily, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

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Wall inscription

An inscription created for the Forgan Smith tower by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

An inscription created for the Forgan Smith tower by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Coats of arms

Several Australian university coats of arms awaiting installation, circa 1950s.

Several Australian university coats of arms awaiting installation, circa 1950s.

Wall frieze of historical scene

Australia 1901, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953: a frieze depicting scenes at the ceremonial swearing-in of Australia’s first Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun.

Australia 1901, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953: a frieze depicting scenes at the ceremonial swearing-in of Australia’s first Governor-General, the Earl of Hopetoun.

Black flying fox roundel

Black flying fox, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Black flying fox, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Grotesque of a mariner

Mariner, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Mariner, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

Roundel of a November lily

November lily, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

November lily, by John Muller and associates, pre-1953.

A new era


After Muller’s death, the carvings project languished for more than two decades – although sculptor Leonard Shillam (1915–2005) was commissioned in 1960 to create a stand-alone sculpture to be sited in the Union precinct.

Sculpture by Leonard Shillam, Union

Union, by Leonard Shillam, 1960.

Union, by Leonard Shillam, 1960.

Then in 1976, the cloister linking the Goddard and Michie buildings was completed, thus enclosing the Great Court into the semi-circular shape we know it as today. The University’s Academic Committee decided to once again commission a series of carvings to adorn the outer walls.

This time, however, they took a different approach to find their artist – they launched an invitational competition, asking five local sculptors to prepare a sculpted head (grotesque) of Associate Professor Charles Schindler, a popular retired humanities academic, in similar style and dimensions as those produced by John Muller and associates.

Of course, the winner of that competition was Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, whom UQ then commissioned to carve seven more grotesques – five distinguished academics and two non-specific subjects representing people of the South Pacific (at her suggestion, the latter two were later amended to be of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).

The exceptional quality of her work led to Hinwood’s appointment as Joseph Muller’s successor, becoming the second University Sculptor, a role she held for the next 35 years.

Rhyl Hinwood and Sir Zelman Cowen

Rhyl Hinwood (centre) upon being awarded the UQ commission, with Vice-Chancellor Sir Zelman Cowen AM and her grotesque of Associate Professor Charles Schindler, 1976.

Rhyl Hinwood (centre) upon being awarded the UQ commission, with Vice-Chancellor Sir Zelman Cowen AM and her grotesque of Associate Professor Charles Schindler, 1976.

History in the making


“Capturing a likeness always came naturally to me,” said Hinwood.

“It was a gift, and for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed drawing, painting and sculpting.

“My first job was as an artist at the Queensland Museum, making colour sketches and notes of live specimens, and, more than 60 years later, some of my work is still on display.

“Unfortunately, when I married my public service job was terminated, but I continued to work at home on clay portraits of friends and family.

“In 1967, George Virine awarded me first prize in a sculpture competition and I used the prize money to pay for my first Sculpture Summer School at UQ’s St John’s College.

“I learnt the technique of carving stone and was hooked.”

Making the most of this passion, Hinwood took on several commissions, including religious friezes, busts and statues – all good experience for when the UQ commission arose, launching her new professional career as a sculptor.

Grotesque of Gairbau

Gairbau, by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, 1978: one of the first seven grotesques she was commissioned to create as part of her prize.

Gairbau, by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM, 1978: one of the first seven grotesques she was commissioned to create as part of her prize.

And history being made


As her skills and expertise increased, so too did the number of works she was asked to produce.

In 1980, University Architect Greg Berkman approached her to carve heraldic shields on the Michie building cloister.

Initially reluctant, Hinwood accepted the challenge and went on to carve 175 of them around the Great Court over the next several years.

Great Court columns

Some of the heraldry carved by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM in the mid 1980s.

Some of the heraldry carved by Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM in the mid 1980s.

Next was carving Queensland’s flora and fauna – a much more challenging commission, as she soon discovered.

“It was great to carve native Australian flora on the armorial bearings of Australian universities, and I enjoyed carving the Commonwealth, state and territory floral emblems – although I must say that the golden wattle was one of the most difficult subjects I have ever had to carve,” Hinwood said.

“Making those small balls look soft and fluffy and not like a bunch of grapes was quite a task.”

Bunya pine carving

The Bunya pine half-shield, carved in 1993.

The Bunya pine half-shield, carved in 1993.

Murdoch University coat of arms carving

The Murdoch University coat of arms, featuring the Banksia grandis, carved in 1984.

The Murdoch University coat of arms, featuring the Banksia grandis, carved in 1984.

Golden wattle carving

The national floral emblem, the golden wattle, carved on a half-shield in 1991.

The national floral emblem, the golden wattle, carved on a half-shield in 1991.

Reef heron arch-carving

A reef heron arch-carving, 1996.

A reef heron arch-carving, 1996.

Roundel of a soldier crab

Roundel of a soldier crab, 1996.

Roundel of a soldier crab, 1996.

Professor Jiro Kikkawa and carving of eastern silvereye

Professor Jiro Kikkawa next to the eastern silvereye arch-carving, the subject of his research, 1996.

Professor Jiro Kikkawa next to the eastern silvereye arch-carving, the subject of his research, 1996.

Sculpture of Charles Darwin

The Charles Darwin wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

The Charles Darwin wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

Sculpture of Gregor mendel

The Gregor Mendel wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

The Gregor Mendel wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

Item 1 of 8
Bunya pine carving

The Bunya pine half-shield, carved in 1993.

The Bunya pine half-shield, carved in 1993.

Murdoch University coat of arms carving

The Murdoch University coat of arms, featuring the Banksia grandis, carved in 1984.

The Murdoch University coat of arms, featuring the Banksia grandis, carved in 1984.

Golden wattle carving

The national floral emblem, the golden wattle, carved on a half-shield in 1991.

The national floral emblem, the golden wattle, carved on a half-shield in 1991.

Reef heron arch-carving

A reef heron arch-carving, 1996.

A reef heron arch-carving, 1996.

Roundel of a soldier crab

Roundel of a soldier crab, 1996.

Roundel of a soldier crab, 1996.

Professor Jiro Kikkawa and carving of eastern silvereye

Professor Jiro Kikkawa next to the eastern silvereye arch-carving, the subject of his research, 1996.

Professor Jiro Kikkawa next to the eastern silvereye arch-carving, the subject of his research, 1996.

Sculpture of Charles Darwin

The Charles Darwin wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

The Charles Darwin wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

Sculpture of Gregor mendel

The Gregor Mendel wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

The Gregor Mendel wall sculpture, carved in 1989, flanking the entrance of the Goddard building.

She also suggested a suite of subjects that would not only represent the diversity of Queensland’s fauna but also celebrate the achievements of UQ staff and graduates – for example, Professor Jiro Kikkawa’s studies into the eastern silvereye bird and Professor Ernest J Goddard’s establishment of the Heron Island Research Station.

Plants and animals featured in many other of her sculptures too, particularly a pair of impressive wall statues of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel, which she carved in 1989 after conducting extensive research – and with some on-campus help from a UQ botanist.

“To be sure that I depicted the correct species of pea plant in my artwork, Professor Trevor Clifford grew one in the rooftop garden of the Goddard building, and one day presented it to me as a wonderfully useful gift,” Hinwood said.

‘Unexpected’ help like this was not unusual in Hinwood’s experience at UQ though. When asked to create another nine grotesques (including one of herself), Emeritus Professor James Mahoney was always available to offer assistance.

“From the beginning, he took me under his wing,” she said.

“He would meet me in the Arts Faculty staff room and, over a cup of tea and plate of gingernut biscuits, would present me with a handful of large, pale-blue file cards scrawled with useful information about the intended subject.

“James became my mentor for many years, and I was so delighted to eventually commence work on a grotesque of the man himself.”

Rhyl Hinwood carving a grotesque of James Mahoney

Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM carving the grotesque of Emeritus Professor JC Mahoney, April 1983.

Dr Rhyl Hinwood AM carving the grotesque of Emeritus Professor JC Mahoney, April 1983.

Former UQ Press Manager Laurie Muller also gave her free rein to produce a series of author portraits for popular on-campus cafe, Wordsmiths.

The brief was… well, brief. Muller told Dr Hinwood he didn’t need any concept drawings, she should treat the cafe like the Great Court, coming and going as she pleased, and to just create a series of portraits with a brief quotation – but, “I do not want a Mount Rushmore”.

“The Wordsmiths Cafe sculpture commission is one of the most satisfying and successful commissions I have ever undertaken, probably due mostly to the imagination and generous spirit of the client and the freedom of expression I was granted,” Dr Hinwood said.

Wordsmiths author portraits

The author portraits in progress, 1996.

The author portraits in progress, 1996.

Dr Hinwood was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa in 2001, recognising her ‘outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Queensland’.

Rhyl Hinwood receiving her honorary doctorate

Receiving her honorary doctorate from Chancellor Sir Llew Edwards AC in 2001.

Receiving her honorary doctorate from Chancellor Sir Llew Edwards AC in 2001.

Dr Hinwood’s artistic contributions to UQ are timeless. Her new e-book ensures that the insights and stories behind their creation will never be lost – whether to a house fire, forgotten memories, or time.   

Read the A sculptor’s vision e-book now.


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