National Library of Australia

There are beautiful stained glass window mosaics adorning the windows of the National Library‘s cafe and bookshop. They are not the typical stained glass mosaics, in fact far from it! Yes, stained glass windows to look at but no stained glass is actually used in it. The artist is Leonard French, a renowned Australian artist born in Melbourne in 1928. He is also responsible for the mosaic ceiling of the Great Hall in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Unfortunately the Leonard French Trust still owns this art, so I was not allowed to take any photos. This always gets my goat, because at the end of the day it all boils down to money and this is in fact public art by definition. It is an art installation in a public place, so I believe we, the public, should be allowed to photograph it if we so desire. I understand the whole copyright issues but really if anyone other than Leonard French is going to try to make money from  his artwork, then he is protected. Either that or these artists, or whomever it is they choose to have manage them, shouldn’t install art in a public place – after all it was a commission so he has been paid for it. The woman in the bookshop was really lovely about it (of course, it’s not her rules!) and mirrored it to not being allowed to photograph art in a gallery. Well, last I checked this art is not in a gallery. It’s in a public building! I will now end my rantings on art being allowed to be appreciated by all people – not just the select few…

That being so, I have found some images on the web. They are truly beautiful! All 16 windows are 3.45 metres in height by 1.3 metres wide. French has used belgique and french chunk glass, 50mm in thickness and then used concrete as the grout. The grout is actually raised from the glass by probably a couple of centimetres and is rough to the touch, so think chunky! I love it! In fact, afterwards I went to the ANU to check out his large mural in the hall of University  House. I really am quite taken with his work.

The overall theme was taken from the planets and utilises around 50 colours. Basically he’s used spirals, crosses and mandalas. Fantastic work and the glass itself has real texture in that he’s used a chisel to cut it all! The pieces were commissioned in 1965 and then installed by French himself in 1967.

In any case this work definitely does not translate all that well in a photograph, so I highly recommend going to see it if you are ever in Canberra!


This image found at:


This image found at:

1 Comment

Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Australia, Canberra, Inspiration, Mosaic, Murals, Public Art, Rant, Uncategorized, Windows

One response to “National Library of Australia

  1. dom johns

    Hi Kim, I finally got around to checking on leonard french and came up here! Thanks for the rant, someones gotta do it. I am familiar with his work as I’ve seen the ceiling in the NGV many times.Love it.
    Do you know where to get a picture of Regeneration that is in colour?
    hope you are well

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