Born in Melbourne in 1863, Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal played a pivotal role in the development of the English New School of sculpture. He initially trained under his father, John Mackennal, a prominent Melbourne sculptor of Scottish descent. Mackennal first studied at the Melbourne National Gallery, then moved to London in 1882, where he studied at the British Museum before gaining a place at the Royal Academy. Disillusioned by the RA’s teaching methods, he decided to abandon his studies and set up a studio for himself. Only 19 at the time, Mackennal obtained his varied tuition by visiting the studios of several leading sculptors in Paris.
Mackennal’s first major commission came in 1887, when he won a competition to sculpt the relief panels on the façade of Parliament House in his native Australia. He spent the next two years completing the project before returning to Europe and exhibiting La Tete d’une Sainte and Le Baiser d’une Mere at the Paris Salon of 1892.