Napier Waller Murals, Melbourne Town Hall

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Napier Waller Murals, Melbourne Town Hall is associated with Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, Victoria located at these coordinates -37.8147367953, 144.966684995

Correspondence between Town Clerk, City of Melbourne, builder, Stephenson & Meldrum and the artist, Napier Waller

The Melbourne artist Napier Waller was the major Australian representative of the international mural movement. Between 1926 and 1967 he executed nine murals in Melbourne's CBD. The requirements of the Town Hall commission largely dictated the medium and subject matter of the panels: the hall was a multi-purpose space; and the surface of the 21 panels to be decorated was comprised of acoustic tiles that would sustain only minimal over-painting. Waller's figures conjure up an ideal, classical world but have always defied specific identification. The scheme was implemented by the Toorak firm of decorators, Henry Oliver & Sons, who enlarged Waller's squared drawings and transferred them to the walls of the hall.

Record Citation: PROV VPRS 3183, P3/Unit 45
Record URL:
Agency: VA 511 Melbourne (Town 1842-1847; City 1847-ct)
Agency URL:
Date: 1927
Record Type: Correspondence
Event Type:
Language: en
Copyright URL:
Related Resource URL:,_Melbourne_Town_Hall
Thumbnail URL:
User Tags: melbourne town hall, napier waller, mural, acoustic

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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2230 2.jpg "FAIRY HILLS"

IVANHOE- 19th September 1927

MASSEY & SONS Pty. Ltd. Contractors, Cr. Park & Wills Street, SOUTH MELBOURNE-

Dear Sirs,

Town Hall: Main Hall Decoration.

Following upon the interview had with you on Saturday morning last, when there was indicated to you the unsatisfactory condition in which the general arrangements in regard to the work to be done by me in the above decorative scheme stands, I now, with a view to clearing the position, have pleasure in submitting an offer to carry out my portion of the work in question for the sum of £800. This offer covers the following work:-

(1) The designing and supply of twenty-one cartoons for the Celotex panels of the Mail Hall;

(2) The supervision of the work of the Painting Contractor in enlarging these Cartoons and rendering them on the Colotex panels.

(3) The general supervision of the decorative and colouring scheme of the Main Hall.

This Offer is made on the clear understanding that, whilst I do not presume to give any opinion on the quality of the trade painting and materials generally employed by the Painter in executing the work, my decision in the matter of the actual execution and laying on of the panels, and in the matter of the general colour scheme which I am supervising, shall be final.

I have already explained to you that my view in this matter is taken from the standpoint that, if the work- as executed by the Painting Contractor- is not in accordance with and in exact proportion to my design, and also if the colour scheme as rendered , is not in harmony with my ideas, and with the general nature of my design, the result will not only be largely prejudicial to my own personal reputation- but will fail to give that general satisfaction to the City Council and to the Community generally, which it is my aim to give.

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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2231.jpg Text written in pen on top left corner needs transcribing. TOWN CLERK'S

17 OCT 1927 OFFICE

"FAIRY HILLS" IVANHOE- 15th October 1927

The TOWN CLERK, Town Hall, Melbourne-

Dear Sir,

re Town Hall- Main Hall Decoration-

I enclose herewith copy letter which I sent to Messrs Massey & Son Propty.Ltd., Contractors on the 19th ultimo, which letter was intended to be brought before the last meeting of the Town Hall & Baths Committee. This letter apparently has not yet come up for consideration. In consiquence, the arrangement set forth in that letter has not yet been discussed by the Committee.

I will be obliged, therefore, if you would kindly bring it to their notice at the next meeting of the Committee, so that their approval to the arrangement may be obtained.

I desire to point out that it would be more satisfactory if all calculations as to progress payments as to the Painting Contract were discussed with me prior to any moneys being paid out for same.

I will be obliged to recive at your earliest convenience a letter from your office intimating the result of the Committee's deliberations upon this matter.

Yours faithfully, M.Napier Waller

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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2232.jpg Signature needs transcribing. CITY OF MELBOURNE.

city engineer's Office,

Melbourne 17th October, 1927.

the chairman, Town Hall

& Baths Committee,

Sir, I have the honor to report with regard to the attached correspondence that the Council contract for decoration &c. is with Messers. Massey and Son; Mr. Napier Waller being practically a sub-contractor. Waller's price was included originally in Oliver's price to Massey. Massey paid Oliver progeress payment including Waller's proportion; Waller refused to accept same from Oliver, but agreed to accept same from Massey. With Regard to items 1 and 2, this is in accordance with arrangements made and agreed to. With regard to Item 3, this cannot be taken out of the hands of the architects who are primarily responsible. I saw Mr. Stephennson in regard to this and told him to explain the matter to Mr. Waller, and as I heard nothing further in regard thereto, understood matters were going satisfactorily untill receipt of the accompanying letter.

I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant.

city engineer.

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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2233.jpg 27/5125

19th October, 1927.

Dear Sir,

Referring to your letter of 15th instant, in regard to arrangements with the painting sub contracoor in connection with the figured mural decoration of the Town Hall, I have, by direction of the Town Hall and Baths Committee of the City Council, to inform you that the Committee cannot depart from the arrangements previously arrived at.

the Committee desire to point out that the general supervision of the decorative and colouring scheme is the main hall cannot be taken out of the hand of the Architects who are primarily responsible.

Yours faithfully,

acting town clerk.

Mr. M. Napier Waller,

"Fairy Hills"



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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2234.jpg CITY OF MELBOURNE


MEMORANDUM to accompany the report of the Town Hall and Baths Committee submitted with the 24th Order of the Day on 15th August, 1927

1. The Town Hall and Baths Committee desire to inform the Council that as a matter of urgency, in order to expidite the completion of the rebuilding of the Town Hall, they have accepted the offer of Massey & Sons Pty. Ltd. for the interior decoration of the Main Hall for the sum of £2,025.

2. In order to ensure satisfactory acoustic properties in the Main Hall, the walls have been treated with "Celotex" panels which, on account of the absorptive nature of such material cannot be siezed or painted. as such treatment would interfere with the acoustic qualities of the panels.

3. In view of the necessity for the preservation of as large an area of the celotex as possible without any treatment whatever such as sizing or paint, the Committee have adopted the conventional line decoration, which will enable all but a very small portion of the panels to remain uncolored.

4. One of the cheif attractions of the method of decoration decided upon is its reticence, giving a reserve and unity particularly suited to a building such as a Town Hall. The figures proposed to be used in the design will be approximately four times life size, in keeping with the scale of the Town Hall.

5. The subjects of the panels will not be allegorical, mythological or descriptive, as decoration will be the first consideration and the lines will be designed according to the proportion of the panels. Consideration was given to the question of depicting subjects such as the founding of Melbourne and its early development, but the proposal was not favored by reason of the necessity reffered to above of retaining as much as possible of the celotex without coloring, and of the fact that such subjects were not, therefore, suitable to the limitations of the celotex. Furthermore, the artist is of opinion that subjects of that nature would not be suited to a dignified Hall.

6. The general color of the Main Hall will be of a warm old ivory with slight contrasts of tone scumbled on pilasters and cornices which will produce an entire effect of quiet richness. A sample panel has been cmpleted in the southern balcony of the Main Hall for inspection by members prior to the meeting of the Council.

7. The work will be carried out under Massey and Sons' contract by Mr. M. Napier Waller, in conjunction with Messrs. J. Oliver and Sons.

8. The Comittee recommend approval by the Council of the action taken by them and that £464 of the cost be charged against the amount provided for the purpose in the Schedule submitted to Council on 19th July, 1926, and the remainder to Loan.




Acting Town Clerk.

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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2235.jpg Text at the top of the page written in pen and signature at the bottom, need transcribing. STEPHONSON & MELDRUM








26 OCT 1927




Melbourne October 25th 1927

The Town Clerk,

Town Hall,


Dear Sir,


Subsequent to our interview with you on Monday morning, the writer discussed the matter with Mr. Morton, and it would appear that he is under the impression that every facility possible has been granted to Mr. Waller and to ourselves who are primarily responsible for the work. This has not been the case, as the scaffolding in the Main Hall was taken down, not only without our authority, but without and reference to Mr. Waller or ourselves.

We recognise that the steps taken were necessitated in order to have the gallery flooring completed as quickly as possible, but the striking of the scaffold left the mural work in an unfinished state. You must appreciate that no craftsman can put the finishing touches to an artist's work, and Mr. Oliver should be required to give these final touches under Mr. Waller's direct supervision.

Mr. Waller will have all the cartoons ready by the end of this week, and will be in attendance at the Hall from Monday next, Octovber 31st, to personally supervise Mr. Oliver's craftsman in bringing up all panels to the standard he desires.

It is assumed that, in the meantime, the necessary scaffolding to reach the panels over the gallery will be erected. Mr. Waller estimates that it will take seven working days to put the finishing touches to the panels already blocked out.

We are quite satisfied that Messrs. Oliver & Sons have done their best to interpret Mr. Waller's intentions, but when the panels over the balcony were carried out, the Hall was so completely filled with scaffolding, it was impossible to judge their finished effect as only small sections of them were visible at one time.

It now becomes a question of who was responsible for the removal of the scaffolding, and who it to pay for its re-erection. It seems to us that as the scaffolding was removed by the Contractor before satisfying himself that the mural work had been completed to the artist's satisfaction, it is his responsibility to replace this scaffolding so that the work may be satisfactorily completed. This principle would apply to any other work carried out by a sub-contractor

We trust that this matter will recive your urgent attention.

Yours faithfully,



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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2236.jpg All text written in pen needs to be transcribed. No document or other attachment must be taken from this file without notifying the Registration Clerk.


27 OCT 1927





The Scaffolding was removed by Massey after the matter was discussed with Mr. Oliver and Mr. Waller.

The contention is now raised that it was impossible to judge the effect untill the scaffolding was removed, and that when removed the decoration did not give the desired effect.

Both the Contractor and Mr. Oliver, the decorator, have done everything in their power to assist Mr. Waller.

I sent for Mr. Waller who came in on Saturday morning, and everything was agreed to and final arrangements made this morning for carrying on the work which was not proceeding to my satisfaction.

Finally, with regard to Mr. Waller's work, Mr. Stephenson, when the question was being discussed, agreed to pay portion of the cost for re-erecting scaffold so that the work could be toned to Mr. Waller's requirements.

I strongly resent Mr. Stephonson's letter as the whole of decoration scheme was left to his firm, and Mr. Waller his consultant, and no interference other than taking action to expedite the work was taken by this office.

It cannot be expected that the Contractors and Sub-Contractors can keep on going over work unless paid for.

This was pointed out to Mr. Stephenson hence his offer to pay portion of cost.

City Engineer.

31st. October, 1927.

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3183 P3 45 27-5278 Napier Waller Mural 2239.jpg MASSEY & SONS PTY.LTD.


The only way in which a satisfactory final result can be assured is by leaving me the decision in the matter of design and colour as stated.

The only further matter is that of payment for the work, which is to be made, as arranged with you, by progress payments as the work progresses.

I will be glad to have confirmation from you in due course, of the general arrangement- embodying, as arranged, the approval of the Baths Committee in the matter.

I enclose a Copy of this letter for your use.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,


Facts about "Napier Waller Murals, Melbourne Town Hall"RDF feed
Has agency url +
Has category nameMelbourne +
Has coordinates37° 48' 53" S, 144° 58' 0" ELatitude: -37.8147367953
Longitude: 144.966684995
+Google maps
Has date1927 +
Has form nameTranscribed Record Form +
Has image +, +, +, +, +, +, + and +
Has keywordsmelbourne town hall +, napier waller +, mural + and acoustic +
Has languageen +
Has occupationbuilder +, city engineer +, the chairman +, acting town clerk + and architect +
Has person nameNapier Waller +, J. GARDINER +, H. S. WOOTTON +, A.G. STEPHENSON +, P. H MELDRUM + and D. K. TURNER +
Has record agencyVA 511 Melbourne (Town 1842-1847; City 1847-ct) +
Has record citationPROV VPRS 3183, P3/Unit 45 +
Has record typeCorrespondence +
Has record url +
Has related resource +
Has rights +
Latitude-37.815 +
Located inMelbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, Victoria +, Melbourne +, IVANHOE + and 374 LITTLE COLLINS ST +
Longitude144.967 +
Page has default formThis property is a special property in this wiki.Transcribed Record Form +
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