Arturo Giobatta ‘Arthur’ Comelli was born in the small town of Nimis near the city of Udine in north-eastern Italy in 1900. When he left school, he undertook an apprenticeship as a monumental mason and later completed an art course at the Professional School in Nimis. Politically he was attracted to the charismatic proto-fascist Gabriele D’Annunzio, who made a valiant but ultimately thwarted attempt to assert his authority over the Yugoslav port town of Fiume (today’s Rijeka in Croatia) in 1919.
After arriving in Adelaide in 1926, Comelli studied sculpture at the South Australian School of Mines and managed to make a living through art by taking on commissions for sculptures, decorations for churches and paintings. He was arrested in October 1940 and interned initially at Keswick, then at Tatura in Victoria and Hay in NSW. He was transferred to Loveday in June 1941 before being released in November of that year.
After the war his ‘Wonderland Artworks’ business on Anzac Highway was well known for the array of artworks on public display. His works included Christ on the Cross at St Francis Catholic Church at Newton, the capitals for columns on the facade of Parliament House, a bust of Donald Bradman and, most memorably, his statue of Neptune first displayed at a service station at Darlinghurst and now on the grounds of a bitumen plant at Birkenhead. Comelli died in 1975.
John Griffin, Back Yard: A Gardening Life, Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1997.
NAA: MP1101/1, PWS13074 Prisoner of War/Internee: Comelli, Arturo Giobatta; Date of birth - 20 September 1900; Nationality - Italian