Inside the Collection

Matcham Skipper (1921-2011)

Pendant, on chain, silver, designed and made by Matcham Skipper
2005/258/1-2 Pendant, on chain, silver, designed and made by Matcham Skipper, Montsalvat, Victoria, Australia, 1960-1969 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

A legend of Melbourne’s bohemian world of the post war decades, Matcham Skipper was a sculptor and jeweller with passion for both the art of metal and unconventional lifestyle. As a jeweller, Skipper was mostly self-taught, drawn to experimenting with silver and gold ‘because of their sensual, ductile qualities’. Most of his jewellery was made using the lost wax casting technique. Inspired by European myths and legends and the work of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, he developed his unique style in the Montsalvat artist colony at Eltham where he had his studio-dwelling complete with a foundry for casting bronzes.

Skipper’s heavy silver necklaces, bracelets and rings, which often featured embracing figures of lovers and could be set with semi-precious stones, were first shown at Brummel Gallery in South Yarra in 1958. But his ‘one-of-the-kind pieces which it takes a personality to wear’ were already in demand in the early 1950s and even exported to America – a visiting American jewellery agent commented that they were ‘unexcelled in the States’. Four decades later, when Skipper was presented with an Emeritus Award from the Australia Council for his lifelong contributions to the visual arts and craft, his old friend, the well-known broadcaster Phillip Adams, noted that:

‘…. in life, in art, in gold, in stone, he was and remains remarkable….as long as I remember, a Skipper ring has been de rigueur for those living within the gravitational pull of Montsalvat…’.

And yes, this of course included Adams.
By the early 1960s, Skipper with his irrepressible personality and, as one journalist put it, rip-roaring sense of humour, was so much part of the local scene that his possible departure for Italy prompted an article in the Women’s Weekly predicting that

‘If he really has gone, the residents of Eltham, Vic., will find life perceptively flatter. They will have to be consoled with the legends that cling to him like burrs’.

I recommend that you read this marvellous account in full, for a taste of Skipper’s contemporary bohemian image and aura.
Skipper was eventually to decline his Italian scholarship to accept the prestigious commission for six immense wrought-iron screens for Canberra University.

He had just completed bas-relief Stations of the Cross in bronze for the church of St Mary Immaculate in Ivanhoe. Many more commissions for sculpture and jewellery were to come Skipper’s way in the succeeding decades, his final creation being the bronze statue ‘Young Man Awakening’ for Eltham Cemetery. He died on 24 February, one of Australia’s most distinctive, creative and fondly-remembered artists of his generation. For Matcham Skippers’ obituary and photo see Craft Unbound .
The Powerhouse has several examples of his jewellery in its collection like this 1960s silver necklace.

Necklace, oxidised silver, Matcham Skipper
87/684 Necklace, oxidised silver, Matcham Skipper, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1966-1968 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

12 responses to “Matcham Skipper (1921-2011)

    •  

      Hi Carolyn
      Some wonderful Skipper
      rings and cufflinks (but I can’t recall necklaces)  were offered in the
      past in various Australian antique/modern jewellery auctions of Leonard Joel (Melbourne) and  Bohnam
      & Goodman (Sydney).  The Art Gallop Gallery in Victoria also sold some pieces a few
      years ago. There may be some other galleries/antique shops in Victoria that I’m not
      aware of – good luck and do let us know if you manage to find a Skipper
      treasure! Eva

  •  

    Hi Carolyn
    Some wonderful Skipper
    rings and cufflinks (but I can’t recall necklaces)  were offered in the
    past in various Australian antique/modern jewellery auctions of Leonard Joel (Melbourne) and  Bohnam
    & Goodman (Sydney).  The Art Gallop Gallery in Victoria also sold some pieces a few
    years ago. There may be some other galleries/antique shops in Victoria that I’m not
    aware of – good luck and do let us know if you manage to find a Skipper
    treasure! Eva

  •  

    Hi Carolyn
    Some wonderful Skipper
    rings and cufflinks (but I can’t recall necklaces)  were offered in the
    past in various Australian antique/modern jewellery auctions of Leonard Joel (Melbourne) and  Bohnam
    & Goodman (Sydney).  The Art Gallop Gallery in Victoria also sold some pieces a few
    years ago. There may be some other galleries/antique shops in Victoria that I’m not
    aware of – good luck and do let us know if you manage to find a Skipper
    treasure! Eva

  • 16/09/19 I am selling my much loved Skipper silver ring of two lovers embracing . I bought it from Matcham at Montsalvat about 1962. It is a beautiful and sensitive piece of work. Any interest from admirers of Skippers jewelry/ art?

  • Kate, I recently purchased a ring that had a white heart shaped opal with flashes of red with two lovers embracing. I thought it might be a Matchum Skipper and I’m interested in what yours looks like as it sounds very similar. We absolutely love it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *