MAG&M Collection Stories:

Taking you back to early surf lifesaving in Manly.

A family holiday, a tourist destination, a nostalgic and idyllic memory; the beach has always been an iconic part of the Australian way of life.

Australian beach culture has become so engrained in our collective consciousness that archetypes have formed: the chilled-out surfer; the gladiator-like lifeguard; the row of tanning teenagers; or the unaware tourist. Many Australian artists have looked to the beach for inspiration, analysing these archetypes and exploring the beach as a social, cultural and political landscape.

Northern Beaches artist Bruce Goold expressed the physicality and athleticism that is often associated with the beach through the heroic depiction of the lifeguard. The artist juxtaposes his figure of the mythic lifeguard against other beach-goers. This traditionally masculine image of the beach, whilst only reflective of part of contemporary society, still forms an integral part of Australia’s historic national identity.

Photographer Frank Hurley captured the popularity of Surf Lifesaving in the 1950s with a visibly packed beachfront watching lifeguards march on Manly Beach. Chuck Bradley’s nostalgia series also provide a snapshot in time, with historic items from MAG&M’s collection.


  1. Bruce Goold (b.1948), The living statue at Manly Art Gallery, 2010, hand-coloured woodcut, edition 1/12, 30 x 42cm. Purchased 2011

  2. Frank Hurley (1885 - 1962), Surf Life Saving Club Manly, c.1950s, digital print by Warren Macris, courtesy National Library of Australia 2018 (P1855)

  3. Manly Lifesaving Club male onepiece, y-back with skirt front, size 40, 1950s, bri-nylon, machine sewn (M1073)

  4. Chuck Bradley (b.1959), Loud hailer (Nostalgica series), 2013, photograph depicting MAG&M museum object, gift of Mrs J. Mellowes 1992 (MO991)

  5. Frank Hurley (1885 - 1962), March past, Manly Beach, c.1950s, digital print by Warren Macris, courtesy National Library of Australia 2018 (P1854)

  6. Chuck Bradley (b.1959), Surf Carnival (Nostalgica series), 2013, photograph depicting MAG&M museum objects collection

Thanks to Meg O’Donnell, 2020 University of Sydney Museum & Heritage Studies intern, for her research and writing on our collection.