He established Bushman's Bible and portraiture prize

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

What do Australia's most famous portrait prize, the now defunct Bulletin magazine and Hyde Park fountain in the heart of Sydney all have in common?


They were all made possible thanks to the work of a man named Archibald. John Feltham Archibald was a child of the goldfields. His mother died when he was four years old so his aunt raised him and he went to school while his father prospected for gold.



Jules Francois Archibald, founder of The Bulletin and Archibald Prize. Courtesy Mitchell Library


By 14 years old he was apprenticed to the Warrnambool Examiner and worked towards his goal of becoming a journalist. He was, however, too shy to submit his articles to his own paper so he sent them to others.


By 18 years old he moved to Melbourne and it was here he developed a fascination for French culture. He decided to change his name to Jules Francois Archibald. It was the name he would keep for the rest of his life.


After working as a clerk in rural Queensland, Jules made his way to Sydney and picked up employment as a clerk with the Evening News. This was the platform he needed to work his way up to the status of reporter.


Then in 1880, at the age of 24, Jules and another journalist John Haynes, started up the magazine that would become the mouthpiece for rural Australia and nicknamed the Bushman's Bible, the stage for new Australian literary talent, including Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson, and a discussion panel for issues of the day. It was called The Bulletin and it's first publication came out on 31 January, 1880 and sold out.



The first edition of The Bulletin in 31 January, 1880. Courtesy National Library of Australia


The Bulletin became highly influential in Australian culture and politics. It was Australia's longest running magazine publication until the final issue was published in January 2008. Jules and John even faced some jail time due to a libel suit brought against the magazine for its biting comments.


On his only trip to England Jules met and fell in love with Rosa Frankenstein. She followed him back to Sydney and they married in 1885. It was not the happiest of marriages as they lost their only child and Rosa turned to drink. Jules was already suffering bouts of depression and this caused him to worry about her continuously.


In 1902 he finally handed over the editorship of The Bulletin, and decided to launch a monthly offshoot called the Lone Hand. His sickness became obvious by 1906 when he started overpaying journalists and ordered absurd quantities of wine for the launch of the magazine.


He was checked into Callan Park Asylum where he was discharged then re-admitted and stayed until 1910. He continued to write poetry and occasionally fiction, some of which got published in the Lone Hand which finished publication in 1907.


In his will Jules left money for a fountain that was built in Hyde Park, Sydney and a bequest for a portraiture prize to encourage his love of art. It became known as the Archibald prize and still runs today through the Art Gallery of NSW.


The final resting place of JF Archibald at Waverley Cemetery. Photo Karen Askew


Jules Francois Archibald died on 10 September, 1919 and is buried at Waverley Cemetery.


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