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Dr Barbara Lemon

Dr Barbara Lemon is researching a book manuscript, The word in the stone: memoirs of Ola Cohn, sculptor (1892–1964).

Sculptor Ola Cohn, 'a big flourbag of a woman, healthy as bread, strong as a millstone' (in the immortal words of writer and friend Barbara Blackman), was something of an anomaly all-round. She was the first Australian sculptor to carve large commissions free-hand in stone and she was a pioneer of modernist sculpture in Australia.

A public figure frequently called upon for speaking engagements, she presided over several artists' collectives and sculpted busts for the nation's rich and famous. Her monumental works are displayed around the country but she is perhaps best-known and loved for carving the Fairies' Tree in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens.

During the 1940s, Ola began writing her memoir. She recorded not only her Jewish and Danish heritage, but her early training and working life. The memoir was never published: it makes a fascinating and important contribution to art history.

Barbara will ghost-write Ola's memoir, combining her anecdotes with a rigorously researched narrative that draws on hundreds of unpublished photographs, letters and speeches contained in her personal records at the Library.

A way with the fairies: the lost story of sculptor Ola Cohn