Friday 24 October 2014

Hyde Park, London WC2

The Joy of Life is by T.B. (Thomas Bayliss) Huxley-Jones and was created in 1963.
It was the last work commissioned by the Constance Fund, a sum of money set aside by the painter and patron of art Sigismund Goetze to form a memorial to his wife Constance. As it turned out, he died first and the fund was administered by Constance until her death in 1951.
The fund was set up for "the encouragement of Ideal Sculpture and its setting for Parks and Public Places in conjunction with the settings and surroundings"; had a rather odd committee structure, set up by Goetze, consisting of "three sculptors, an architect, a horticulturalist and a few laymen." When a site was found, a competition was held offering five prizes of £50 and £1,500 to the winner.
"The Joy of Life" is a great work, full of both joy and life. The four children playing in the spray are particularly charming.

Monday 13 October 2014

Royal Geographical Society, Lowther Lodge, Kensington Gore SW7

The figures of two great explorers enliven the blank wall of the Royal Geographic Society's lecture hall, Ernest Shackleton and David Livingstone. Sir Ernest Shackleton's reputation today is based on a very British failure. The aim of his 1914 polar expedition was to cross Antarctica, but his ship Endeavour was crushed in the pack ice and it was his leadership in extracting his crew without losing a man that has made him a cult figure. He is portrayed in full cold-weather gear in the 1932 statue by Charles Sargeant Jagger, It is a very characteristic Jagger piece - very statuesque, full-frontal. The only movement is subtly suggested by one foot being slightly in front of the other, and he holds one hand behind his back. There is an interesting photo of his assistants working on the full-size work for the foundry from the maquette.
Dr David Livingstone's search for the source of the Nile and his meeting with Stanley earned him mythic status in his lifetime and throughout the imperial period, but today he is regarded more cautiously. He was as much a missionary as a scientist, and he opened the interior of Africa to colonial rule. But he is ultimately redeemed by the fact that he really loved both the place and its people. Livingstone's statue was created in 1953 by T.B. Huxley-Jones. It is a much livelier pose, as you might expect from the creator of all those fountains with writhing figures. The good doctor leans on his cane, cradling his Bible in his other hand, his coat over his arm.

Friday 10 October 2014

Lower Grosvenor Gardens SW1

The French sculptor Georges Malissard was noted for his statues of horses, often shown with jockeys, polo players, soldiers and, in the case of Albert of the Belgians, royalty.This is a copy of his portrait of the charger Bengali, Marshal Foch up. Ferdinand Foch was one of the few generals of genius in the First World War, and became three times a marshal, of France (naturally), Britain (Field Marshal in 1919) and Poland (in 1923).
The statue was erected in 1930. The 1928 original (below) is in Cassel, Foch's headquarters at the battle of Ypres,

Thursday 9 October 2014

Lower Grosvenor Gardens SW1

An Alien has landed next to Victoria station, and no-one is taking a blind bit of notice.
The sculpture, entitled Alien, was plonked in place (well, that's what it looks like. Of course I am sure it was done with care and full compliance with all relevant H&S regs) in 2013 for a two-year period. It deserves a permanent place.
For the sculptor, David Breuer-Weil, the word 'alien' has several meanings:
“I have always been fascinated by the idea that we are not alone, that a massive Alien might suddenly land on earth. I wanted to capture the sense of wonder and shock that such an arrival would generate. Every new work of art is an Alien, an unexpected arrival. But I also think that an extra-terrestrial being would look like us, but perhaps much larger or smaller. However, the title Alien also suggests something quite different: the difficulty of being an outsider. My father arrived in England from Vienna with his parents as refugees in 1938. My grandfather was interred as an enemy “Alien”, a great paradox given the reasons he had to leave Austria, something that my family often spoke about. Sometimes immigrants hide their true identity beneath the surface, like this sculpture. Many of my works, both paintings and sculptures, explore the theme of belonging or alienation. But with this work I wanted to use a vast, breathing human form to express the profound feelings associated with these themes. And I needed the massive scale to portray the intensity of these emotions.”
(from the Victoria Business Improvement District website. BID was behind the placement of the sculpture)