Monday, 9 November 2009

Croydon Public Library, Katharine Street CR9

The Braithwaite Hall above Croydon library is adorned with as much symbolic sculpture as could reasonably be fitted in, commissioned from Edwin Roscoe Mullins, a Londoner who studied at the Royal Academy and then in Vienna where he shared a studio with Onslow Ford.
The representative figures continue the theme of untilitarian service. From left to right, they are Health, Study, Religion, Recreation and Music, all helpfully labeled.
I particularly like Health. She holds a snake, the traditional symbol of healthcare, completely ignoring the way it is slithering over her lap. Her other hand holds a smoking censer.
On her right, a small girl is watched by her mother as she drinks from a public fountain. On her left, workmen lay the drains.
Education is represented by a number of lads from the Whitgift School, one being tutored by the Archbishop (I think).
Am I reading too much into this, or are the figures surrounding the allegorical female figure a bit subversive? The languid posture of the boy on the left, leaning on his mother's shoulder, radiates boredom and disbelief. On the right, Mother seems to be almost forcing her son onto his knees to pray.

 Recreation. Dancing for the girls and bloody cricket for the lads. So predictable.
Finally, Music is represented by St Cecilia with her organ, a violinist and cello on the left and a trio of choirboys on the right.


Hels said...

So would you say they are late 19th century? Someone had very classicising taste for that period, didn't they?

Later in the 20th century, especially between the wars, I bet they would have added Labour and Science to those utilitarian services.

Chris Partridge said...

The 1892 design of the Braithwaite Hall is the Victorian style known as 'Queen Anne' (so as not to call it 'Dutch') so a classical bent is not inappropriate. Mullins was very Arts and Crafts.