HOFF, George Rayner

HOFF, George Rayner
known as Rayner Hoff (1894-1937)
was born in the Isle of Man in 1894. His father, who was of Dutch descent, was a woodcarver and stonecarver, often employed in restoring old houses in England. The boy began to learn carving at home, and then went to the Nottingham art school, where he studied drawing, design, and modelling, from 1910 to 1915. He then enlisted, and after a year in the trenches was employed until the end of the war on making maps based on aerial photographs. He then entered the Royal College of Art, studied under Derwent Wood for three years, and winning the Prix de Rome, went to Italy in 1922. There he did little work in sculpture beyond making sketch models, but drew much and mentally studied the many examples of classical and Renaissance art to be found in that country. In May 1923, on the recommendation of Sir George Frampton, R.A., and F. Derwent Wood, R.A., he became director of sculpture and drawing at the East Sydney technical school.
Hoff's coming to Sydney was a great gain to Australia. He speedily reorganized the school and succeeded in winning the enthusiasm of the students. He became a member of the Society of Artists and sent work to their exhibitions. In 1924 he designed their medal, and in 1927 was responsible for sculpture for the national war memorial at Adelaide. In the same year he was awarded the Wynne prize at Sydney. His best known works are the figures on the exterior of the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney, the central group in the interior, and the bronze reliefs. An example of his sculpture associated with architecture is at Sydney university, where four medallion portraits of great scientists are on the façade of the physics building.
Hoff also produced a variety of smaller work, built up a fine school of sculpture, and in 1934 was commissioned to design the Victorian centenary medal. His use of a ram's head as the design for one side of it was much criticized, and it is not one of his most successful efforts. At the time of his death on 19 November 1937 he was engaged on the George V Memorial for Canberra. He had recently been commissioned to design part of the new coinage for the Commonwealth. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.
Coming to Australia as a young man of 28, Hoff soon adapted himself to Australian conditions, and his quiet, slightly whimsical personality made him generally liked. He was a quick worker and an artist of great originality. That is not to say he had paid no heed to tradition, for his work, originally based on the Greeks, showed that he had studied much that was best in Italian work of the Renaissance, the Assyrian friezes, the attempt to retain only the essentials, characteristic of some of the moderns, and the simple sincerity of the Chinese. All this was, however, fused in his own personality, and his too early death was a great loss to the art of Australia.
W. Moore, The Story of Australian Art; The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 1937; The Herald, Melbourne, 20 November 1937; Art in Australia, October, 1932; The Earl Beauchamp and others, Sculpture of Raynor Hoff, 1934.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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