Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arthur Stace (1884-1967) - Pavement Art and 'Mr Eternity'

In his early life, Arthur Stace was a petty criminal, bum, and 'metho' (alcohol) drinker - a classic down-and-outer.

And so it seems amazing that he is widely known today, well, in Australia. Which I'm sure would truly surprise him.

And the reason is this.

For 37 years, Stace roamed over Sydney chalking the word 'Eternity' on the pavement, on walls ... on the biggest bell of the Sydney General Post Office. 500, 000 times at least. And in the most beautiful copperplate script. Though he could barely write his own name.

Arthur Stace's 'Eternity' - Still Visible on the Biggest Bell of the General Post Office, Martin Place, Sydney CBD

So initially I thought I'd put something more out there about this early 'pavement artist' to do my small part to continue keeping him 'alive'. Little realizing how wide-spread his fame already was, as I found the more I researched him!

Seemingly out of character, Arthur Stace fought in the First World War, being blinded in one eye and suffering the effects of gas poisoning in the trenches. But then maybe this was not so strange - it was a way out of his then current life and at a time when there was a very different view about the sense of young men going to war.

But on his return home, he was drawn back into crime and living on the streets, till the Great Depression. When, in early 1931, he heard the Rev. John Ridley preach 'I wish I could shout the word 'Eternity' through all the streets of Sydney' ...

Rev John Ridley

... and he chalked his first 'Eternity'.

And in some strange metamorphosis, Stace gave up alcohol and moved into steady employment.

From then early each day and after prayer, he began his quest to write the word all over Sydney. At locations directed by God. Usually along pavements - every 100 metres or so. Returning home by 10am.

This phenomenon became the object of public curiosity though Stace remained anonymous. Till an article appeared in the 'Sunday Telegraph' in 1956. And a documentary - 'Eternity' - was made in 1994. Though the particular meanings Stace had in mind for his word were never fully unraveled.

Such exposure eventually spawned a plethora of artistic endeavours - in the visual arts ...

... in music, such as the offering 'The Eternity Man' at the Sydney Opera House ...

Richard Gill conducts Grant Smith, playing Arthur Stace in The Eternity Man, Sydney Opera House

... and in film, such as the current showing of the 1994 film at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Culminating most publicly and widely in the lighting of the Harbour Bridge for the turn of the millennium:

I've been thinking about Arthur Stace over the last few years - mostly each time I see yet another example - in the inner eastern suburbs - of cracks in the pavement being 'sewn up' with chalk stitches!

Wish I'd taken a photo of one of them.

Next time - keep you posted!


  1. what a beautiful story! thank you.


  2. hey herman. yeah, it is a great and true story. i like it that, with little education or any of the other usual skills and accomplishments, Arthur Stace gave his life some real meaning and purpose - and so creatively! take care. keep in touch. nick

  3. Just Fabulous. This is a prime example of why I ADORE this site. Thanks Nick, you are without peer in all of blogdom! LOL

  4. hey chaz. thanks - very glad you enjoyed the post! keep in touch - there's more to cum! take care. nick

  5. Wow. What a story! Thanks so much. Oh, and what Chaz said.

  6. hey jason. glad you liked it - when i started to read about arthur stace, i knew i should post his story. take care. nick