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5 November 2013














Bill Constable: Do you know more?

Do you know the whereabouts of an unpublished book by the Australian stage and film designer, William (Bill) Constable?

The Wolanski Foundation and Olga Sedneva are searching for the manuscript or publisher’s proofs or other material relating to William Constable’s Constable: Design for Film, Opera and Ballet Settings and Costumes, a book scheduled to be published by Harry Hewett Publishing Melbourne about 20 years ago.

The foundation assisted Olga with her University of Sydney Master of Art Curatorship dissertation, Corroboree: White Fella Vision, which looks at the Australian ballet Corroboree, choreographed by Rex Reid and Beth Dean to music by John Antill, and with designs by Bill Constable. It is a fascinating topic because it touches on the culture of the world's oldest civilisation, the reconciliation of immigrant Australians with Indigenous Australians, and the creation of an authentic Australian voice in the arts.

The foundation is now assisting Olga to create extra value from her research by exploring possible exhibitions and publications.

We discovered a publisher's blurb in the Dennis Wolanski Library and Archives of the Performing Arts press clipping files now located at the Seaborn Broughton and Walford Foundation collection in Sydney. The book does not appear to have been published (it isn’t listed in Trove), but we are hoping the manuscript or the publisher's records may have found their way into a cultural institution or private collection.

The blurb describes it as a lavish production of 192 pages, with 255 illustrations in colour and black and white. A prologue by Lady Viola Tait and an introduction by Bill Akers of the Victorian Arts Centre were anticipated. It was to be “the first book published devoted exclusively to an Australian Artist of Worldwide reputation in Film, Theatre and Costume. Constable has woven a fascinating anecdotal frolic throughout its rich pages of colourful Settings and Costumes. For forty six years he has worked in Australia and seven overseas countries and won fame for his exquisite colour sense as well as some notoriety for an unconventional attitude to Architecture.” There are other details in the blurb.

Bill Constable’s designs for the 1954 production of the ballet were transferred from the Dennis Wolanski Library and Archives of the Performing Arts to the State Library of New South Wales in 1997 and other items about the productions are held in other Australian cultural institutions. The Victorian Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Museum mounted a retrospective exhibition devoted to Constable in 1987-1988.

If you have further information we would very much like to hear from you.

Paul Bentley
5 November 2013



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