Friday 19 October 2012

Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood NW8

This is one of the most prominent sculptures in London but nobody notices it. Something to do with its position on a nightmare roundabout where both drivers and pedestrians are concentrating on not getting killed rather than admiring the surroundings.
It is a relief by Gilbert Bayes showing sportsmen and the tools of their trades. Cricketers are at the centre, naturally enough, where a batsman and a bowler admire the surprisingly tiny Ashes trophy. Next to them is an athlete toweling himself off - an excuse for a nude.
Other sports are represented by (left to right) tennis players, golfers, footballers, a rower and swimmers. The relief was done in 1934 so although there is a woman golfer, tennis player and swimmer but no females in the other sports.
The figures are wonderfully formed, honed athletes rather than the muscle-bound god that Hodge put on the PLA building, featured in a recent post.
That famous line from Sir Henry Newbolt's Vitai Lampada, "Play up, play up, and play the game" runs above the group. More than anything in Kipling it summarises what was nasty about Imperial England - conformist, hectoring, class-ridden and sentimental.

1 comment:

Hels said...

I have seen many low relief sculptural panels from the 1930s, showing tradesmen, professionals, business men and scientists, all with their tools in hand. But this may well be the first panel of sportsmen, all with their readily identifiable tools in hand. Love it.