Artist Napier Waller lost his right arm after being wounded in the fighting at Bullecourt in 1917, but he never lost his love of art.
Determined to continue painting and drawing, Waller taught himself to use his left hand, and went on to become a noted Australian muralist, mosaicist and painter, creating the magnificent mosaics and stained glass in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial.
The Memorial's Head of Art, Laura Webster, said Waller's dedication to his art was extraordinary.
"The vast mosaics and stained glass windows he created are extraordinary in their innovation, iconography and overwhelming beauty, and sit within the heart of the Memorial."
Each year millions of people are moved by his work, which surrounds the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, but his own life is also a story of courage and determination.
Born Mervyn Napier Waller at Penshurst in country Victoria in June 1893, Waller left school at 14 to work on the family farm before moving to Melbourne in 1913 to study drawing and painting at the National Gallery schools.
He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915 and trained at Royal Park Camp in Victoria before being transferred to the artillery.
By the end of 1916, Waller was serving with the 111th Howitzer Battery in France. He used his diary to detail his experiences at the front, complaining of the never-ending cold and mud, and making sketches of the scenes around him.
"Today cold is fearful - beyond words," he wrote. "Nearly caught whilst asleep last night: heavy shell fell within yards of trench and threw heaps of dirt upon our tarpaulin cover.
When Waller was severely wounded at Bullecourt in May 1917, his right arm was amputated at the shoulder. During his convalescence in France and England, he trained himself to write and draw with his left hand, later reflecting that "an artist draws with his head, not his hands".
After returning to Australia in November 1917, Waller resumed his work as an artist. Over the next two decades, Waller established himself as a mural artist and mosaicist, undertaking large-scale commissions for the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria.
Today, Napier Waller is also remembered at the Memorial through a $10,000 art prize named in his honour. Entries open on Monday 20 April and close on Sunday 7 June 2020.
- To learn more about the 2020 Napier Waller Art Prize visit https://www.awm.gov.au/Napier-Waller-Art-Prize-hub