Robert Hitchcock Bob Hawke Bust Story
Depending on his behaviour, as a boy growing up in Perth, Robert Hitchcock’s mum would either call him her “Little Warragul,” or her “Little Larrikin,” so it was probably inevitable Robert would become a fan of Australia’s most loved larrikin, Bob Hawke. Indeed as the boy became a sculptor and the other a union leader, then Prime Minister, their paths were to cross more than once.
Robert first met ‘Hawky’ working as a labourer on a construction site in the 1960s, years later, at the unveiling of a statue of the Melbourne Cup winning Hyperno, Bob Hawke remembered Robert and congratulated him on his work and the sculpture. Then in 1983, Robert’s statue of Yagan was unveiled on Heirisson Island, Hawke couldn’t attend and sent Aboriginal Activist Charles Perkins AO, as his representative, with a special message of congratulations for Robert, telling him Hawke remained a great admirer of his work.
And so the larrikin sculptor, now in his 70s, has been driven to create a bust in honour of Australia’s larrikin Prime Minister, on his passing.
I caught Robert in his Morley studio the other morning, the bust is nearing completion, he’s now meticulously working on the finer detail he’s renowned for. Robert says he wants to catch that moment when Hawke would either be going to say something very funny, or politically very cutting – that aside we all remember when the eyebrows would raise and you knew the Larrikin was out.
There will be an edition of ten, all of course slightly different, as is the way when casting. Those interested in obtaining a bust, can contact Robert on: M: 0414 476 406 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org I can’t help but think the new Bob Hawke College in Subiaco would be the perfect place for at least one of the sculptures.
For those who are not aware of Robert’s magnificent body of work, apart from the aforementioned statue of Hyperno and Yagan, there is his profound and moving set of lifesize statues in the Garden of Remembrance at the SAS Headquarters in Swanbourne. He created a series of Leonard Cohen busts and presented one to Cohen when he was performing in Perth. Cohen would later email him from his home in LA, thanking him for the gift and complimenting him as one artist to another.
Of particular relevance, with the imminent release of White Crow, (the film about Rudolf Nureyev), are Robert’s intense studies of Nureyev and the fascinating story of how Robert became one of only two sculptors ever to travel with Nureyev – the other was the Italian sculptor, Enzo Plazzata.
Nureyev, touring Australia, was performing at the then Edgley owned Entertainment Centre, Robert tried to get in to see him, but couldn’t get past security, so he went to the Perth Parmelia Hilton, where Nureyev was staying. Fortunately, a lady at the hotel told him Nureyev’s habit was to walk to the Entertainment Centre from the hotel every day. Robert waited.
Heart in mouth, he approached Nureyev as he walked up to St George’s Terrace, asking if it was possible to study him as he rehearsed, for a sculpture, pleading that surely somebody would have given Nureyev a helping hand at the start of his career. Rudolph grunted, saying nothing, but nor did he send Robert away. They continued in this fashion to the Entertainment Centre, Robert pleading for access and Rudolph grunting.
When they reached the stage door, security stopped Robert, but Nureyev said, “No, he’s with me.” Nureyev was notoriously tempestuous, but somehow Robert was able to tour Australia with him and create a fabulous series of statues, but that’s another story in its own right. This one’s about that Perth larrikin Little Warrigal and his sculpture of another Perth larrikin, Bob Hawke.