Austin Harold Platt (1912 – 2003) was born in Perth and had most of his brief education in New Zealand. He began his apprenticeship as an artist at the age of 20, when he worked and studied commercial art at Cedric Emanuel’s studio in Sydney, in the same building as Sydney Long’s studio. Cedric gave Austin lessons in etching at the Emanuel home in Dover Heights.
Platt also studied at the Sydney Art School, the Royal Art Society, Maud Sherwood’s Sketch Club and at East Sydney Technical College, in such company as Long and Dattilo Rubbo.
He went to Melbourne to sketch schools after the Collegiate Etching and Fine Arts Studio began to sell etchings of schools. Platt had immediate success with an etching of Scotch College. He completed 100 plates before World War II and another 44 afterwards. Some of the school buildings have been demolished and the etchings remain a valuable record of architectural styles, as well as holding sentimental value for former students.
After the war, Platt mixed etching with commercial art. Noting his subject range, the historian Will Newton said: “I have researched a multitude of our historic buildings. No matter how obscure some have been, I always found that Austin Platt had got there first and made an accurate drawing.”
The same applied to many of the long-gone buildings around The Rocks and the Showground, where Platt’s collection captured the spirit of the place and the old motorcycle speedway, with its riders Vic Duggan, Lionel van Praag and Jack (later Sir Jack) Brabham.
After his “retirement” in 1977, Platt concentrated on his great love, the Centennial Park project. His love springs from his work, often in watercolour. The collection provides a meticulous record of the landscapes, the Federation-era buildings, the bird life, the Federation Pavilion, down to detailed studies of the plants. Some, such as a drawing of Hector, the emu, record aspects of the park which have now disappeared (the last of the captive emus and kangaroos were transferred to Featherdale Park in the late 1980s).
An exhibition at the Lebovic Gallery in 1990 sold out; Lady (Mary) Fairfax bought several etchings for her apartment in New York.
Platt’s wife, Nancy, predeceased him. They left four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.