The sculpture, The Spirit of Botany, designed and constructed by New Zealand born sculptor Alan Ingham (1920 – 1994) was unveiled on 7 April 1964 at Bankstown, Sydney.
The bronze is 3.15 metres high and weighs 386 kilograms. It was constructed to commemorate the botanist, Sir Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820), who became famous as the botanist on Captain Cook’s first expedition of discovery in HMS Endeavour (1768 – 1771) to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia. He collected botanical and scientific specimens at Botany Bay from 28th April to 6thMay 1770. Banks held the position of President of the Royal Society for 41 years and advised King George II on the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He advocated British settlement in New South Wales and became the general adviser to the British Government on all Australian matters for over 20 years.
The sculpture consists of a symbolic figure of a woman representing Botany, seated in an informal arrangement of natural rocks, holding a plant above her head. In 2012 The Spirit of Botany was moved from the southern courtyard of the old Town Hall to the south-western corner of Paul Keating Park, Bankstown, Sydney. Bankstown is named after Sir Joseph Banks.
The present maquette measures 25 cm tall and is a replica of the work installed at Bankstown.
Alan Ingham was born on the 19th August 1920 in Christchurch. He left school at 14 to begin work as a motor trimmer. After a camping trip with fellow artist Russell Clark, his love for carving began which led to his enrolment as Christchurch School of Art. In 1941, Ingham’s studies were interrupted as he was sent off to War. In 1946 he relocated to Sydney where he finished his studies at East Sydney Technical College, earning a Diploma of Fine Arts.
In 1939, Ingham began a European tour:
“I’d planned my European tour by searching through my books of sculpture and finding where they are located…. but constantly found other things of course, small Etruscan bronzes for example, that hadn’t been photographed or published. This opened up a whole new world to for me.”
During this time Ingham worked for Henry Moore as a studio assistant for two years before returning to New Zealand. In 1956, following a letter from Australian sculptor Tom Bass regarding a commission for the University of Melbourne, Ingham returned to Sydney where he settled for the remainder of his life.