John Simpson Mackennal was a locally prominent architectural modeller and sculptor. A Scottish immigrant, he studied at the Collegiate Institution, Liverpool, while apprenticed as an architectural modeller. He arrived in Australia around 1852-54 and was unsuccessful on the Ballarat goldfields. He returned to Melbourne and established an architectural modelling business with James Scurry around 1856. They were contracted to work under the supervision of Charles Summers on plaster figures and decorations for Parliament House, Melbourne (according to the Concise Dictionary of Australian Artists; but the Australian Dictionary says this was his son Edgar Bertram). He also made figures for the facades of many other Melbourne public buildings, including the old Meat Market, the Law Courts and the Windsor Hotel.

Mackennal was married to Annabella, nee Hyde. Their son, for whom he was the first art teacher, was the sculptor Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal.

Mackennal was awarded a medal at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1873 for his medallic work (NU 18243). He won in the Miscellaneous category for two works: #267 - ideal bust (life size), entitled 'Pleasing Thought', with pedestal to same; and #268 - 'Startled Horses', a panel in high relief, showing a group of horses' heads, with a bracket. Mackennal was a locally prominent architectural modeller and sculptor, located at 105 Collins Street East when the medal was awarded.

Mackennal was a foundation member of the Victorian Academy of Art.

References:
Australian Dictionary of Biography (Sir Edgar Bartram Mackennal). http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/adbonline.htm
Concise Dictionary of Australian Artists.

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