Portrait medal of former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies (1894-1978) by noted Australian sculptor Andor Mészáros (1900-1972). Struck by Stokes, Melbourne.
Robert Gordon Menzies was Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister. Born in the small country country town of Jeparit, Victoria, Menzies attended school and university on scholarships, winning prizes and awards as he went. Admitted to the bar in 1918, Menzies first became interested in public life through politically significant court cases. He ran for federal office with the United Australia Party (UAP) in 1931 and served as attorney-general under Joseph Lyons. In 1939 he assumed leadership of the party and became Prime Minister; less than six months later he led Australia into World War II.
Internal strife in the UAP led to Menzies resigning his position in 1941 and in the following year the party lost power to Labor. Menzies rebuilt his political standing through his involvement in the newly formed Liberal Party, and in his speech 'The Forgotten People' articulated the principles that - along with a deep-seated hatred of communism - would become the defining ideologies of his political career: individual freedom, private enterprise, economic conservatism and the protection of the middle classes.
Menzies' second term as Prime Minister began with the election of 1949 and lasted until his retirement in 1966. Winning an unprecedented (and so-far unsurpassed) seven general elections, Menzies led Australia through a period of strong economic growth, major post-war immigration, a growing interest in southeast Asia and a stronger alliance with the United States, although he remained intensely loyal to Australia's historic and emotional bonds with Britain. His steadfast position as a 'Cold Warrior' was a key element in Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War.
Robert Menzies and Andor Mészáros had met several times over the years and had, in the words of Andor's on Michael, 'hit it off'. After his retirement in 1966, Menzies agreed to sit for a portrait by Mészáros. The sittings took place in the Mészáros studio in Kew, and this medal was the result. It was struck in brass and copper, and the Menzies Foundation used a silver-plated version for some of their presentations.
Profile of Robert Menzies left. Around, ROBERT GORDON MENZIES 1969 At truncation: ANDOR MESZAROS
Statement of significance:
Robert Menzies shaped a generation of Australian society and politics. This medal acknowledges the role he played as Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister.
For over half a century, sculptors Andor (1900-1973) and Michael (1945- ) Meszaros have created medals that reflect the high points of life in Australia. From major awards and portraits of eminent Australians to artwork celebrating popular culture and the natural world, these objects illuminate our culture and history. Grounded in a centuries-old European art tradition, the medals create connections across disciplines and link such diverse subjects as scientific advances, religious themes, sport, the performing arts and motherhood. Through their public and private commissions and their personal artworks, the Meszaros sculptors have defined the modern Australian medal.
Donation from Gretta (Margaretta) Wilkinson, 19/07/2012
Type of item
3 mm (Height), 63 mm (Outside Diameter)
Blue leather case: 88 x 88 x 25 mm