In 1956 the Commonwealth Bank commissioned Byram Mansell to design a mural for its new premises to be erected in Victoria Street, Taree.1Born in Sydney in 1893, William Arthur “Byram” Mansell was trained as an engineer, but attended evening classes at Julian Ashton’s Art School.2
Seeking to further his experience, he travelled overseas and, whilst in Los Angeles, undertook costume and set designs for film and theatre productions. Returning to Australia in 1926, Mansell continued a successful career embracing varied mediums, and exhibited frequently.
Although not himself of Aboriginal heritage, by 1950 his interest in Aboriginal mythology and culture was profoundly influencing his art and he developed a range of products embracing these design elements. In the ensuing period he designed murals for a range of government and business entities including the Rural and Commonwealth Banks.3
The Taree mural, constructed of ceramic tiles, is one of only a small number that remain from the 1950-1960 period. It is entitled “Bilinga and the Fig Tree” and illustrates a local Aboriginal legend.4 Originally more publically accessible, the mural can still be seen by passersby behind the modern glass façade of the presently (2017) vacant building.
Byram Mansell died in 1977.
Author: Penny Teerman
1 Manning River Times, 19 February 2016 Taree’s Commonwealth Bank building up for sale
2 Australian Dictionary of Biography – Mansell William Arthur Byram (1893-1977)
3 Powerhouse Museum – Archive of Australian designer Byram Mansell
4 Manning River Times,19 February 2016 Taree’s Commonwealth Bank building up for sale