Newsletter - January 2014
East of England Area Study Day
NADFAS are holding our area’s Study Day on 9th July nr Bury St Edmunds. This year the art and music of the First World War will be explored. Three lecturers will present their views in different sessions: the painters of the period, the music, and finally Stanley Spencer. All sessions will include elements of poetry. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be sent a flyer or pick one up at the February lecture; booking forms will be available from 1st March.
Art on London’s Streets
Our first lecture of the New Year was by Peter Lawrence on the subject of Art on London’s Streets. We were treated to a whistle-stop tour of London and visited many of the familiar, and less familiar, sculptures that grace the capital.
Starting in Trafalgar Square, very successfully part-pedestrianised during Ken Livingston’s mayoralty, we examined the fountains by Edward Lutyens erected in 1939. The empty plinth has hosted a string of statues including Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare, which can now been seen outside the National Maritime Museum.
The statue of Nelson on the familiar column in the Square, has been recently restored, and a life size model can be seen in the Admiralty. In nearby Waterloo Place there is the 2010 statue to Sir Keith Park, who lead the “Few” in the Battle of Britain. Trafalgar Square is also the home to the oldest equestrian statue in London, on the site of the original Charing Cross: that of Charles I. Hidden during Cromwell’s time, it was re-erected during the reign of Charles II in its present position.
Close by, behind St Martin’s in the Fields, is a memorial to Oscar Wilde sculpted by Maggi Hambling. Featuring a head mounted on a coffin like base, it invites people to sit on it and read the inscription "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars"; a quotation from “Lady Windermere’s Fan”.
Docklands, made redundant by the early 1970s, is home to many newer sculptures. In Bermondsey there was a memorial to Dr Alfred Salter and his daughter. Dr Salter sat on a bench and his daughter and their cat posed against the wall along the river; he had been working during the 1930s, as a doctor and Labour politician, to improve the health of women and children in that deprived area. Unfortunately the statue was stolen in 2011 for its metal content.
Next to the O2 can be found the spectacular Quantum Cloud by Antony Gormley, in which the figure of a man can be discerned in the centre of the moving steel structure. This is the tallest of Gormley’s works and was a £1m project for the millennium.
The dockworkers have their own commemorative sculpture near Royal Victoria Dock. Depicting three figures (based on real individuals) it shows the work of stevedores and a ‘tally man’. Created by sculptor, Les Johnson, it is one of the largest figurative sculptures in London.
Near Paddington basin there is the unusual work called Man Standing and Man Walking by Sean Henry. These two figures, cast in bronze and painted with oil paint, are startling in the fact their colouring is lifelike enough for passers by to mistake them for animate beings.
We saw images of the Battle of Britain memorial on Victoria Embankment that was unveiled in 2005, the 65th anniversary of the engagement. The centrepiece shows airman scrambling for their aircraft, and the long panels show relief sculptures of scenes of the battle. Another huge memorial to airmen of the Second World War is the memorial to Bomber Command near Hyde Park Corner. Designed to an enormous scale, it shows a full bomber command crew of seven, and is cast of the aluminium from Lancaster bombers. Unveiled in 2012 by the Queen the memorial is housed in a surrounding Portland stone colonnade.
A sculpture that reminds us of the personalities of the same era is the statue of Roosevelt and Churchill sitting on a bench in conversation. To be found in Mayfair where Old and New Bond Street meet, it was unveiled in 1995 and is appropriately called Allies. A work that invites the public to join the sitting leaders, the edges of the figures are polished by numerous people who have brushed up against them.
More memorials to the bravery of those in war can be seen in London. Outside the Ministry of Defence in Horseguards Avenue a monument to the Gurkha Soldier can be found and on the Albert Embankment near Lambeth Palace there is a memorial to the agents of the S.O.E. with a bust of Violette Szabo on a plinth that also commemorates the Norwegian resistance commandos. The national Firefighters Memorial is located near St Paul’s Cathedral and depicts three auxiliary firemen in action at the height of the Blitz. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother unveiled the memorial in 1991. A memorial to the Kindertransport outside Liverpool Street Station depicts a group of five children and their luggage and behind them is a short piece of railway track signifying their journey.
Animals in war are also commemorated in the centre of Park Lane, in a huge sculpture, which shows mules, a horse, dog in bronze and a large Portland stone wall carved in relief depicting animals in war. It was unveiled by The Princess Royal in November 2004, the 90th anniversary of the start of the First World War.
The Cenotaph is perhaps the most familiar of our memorials to the war dead, designed by Lutyens it depicts an empty casket on top of a tall stone plinth and is the focus of the parade on Remembrance Sunday. In contrast, the New Zealand War Memorial near the Wellington Arch is a modern design of 16 vertical bronze sculptures set in positions to replicate the Southern Cross constellation.
Royalty is obviously another source of commemorative sculpture; from the Grand Old Duke Of York on Carlton House Terrace, to George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the top of the Mall, there are numerous statues to our kings and queens. A clay model of Richard Coeur de Lion’s equestrian statue was displayed at the 1851 Crystal Palace Great Exhibition and the final bronze version erected in its present site in Old Palace Yard in 1860.
On a more humorous note John Betjeman stands on St Pancras Station eyeing up the spectacular roof; he was instrumental in saving the station from redevelopment in the 1960s and the sculpture by Martin Jennings was unveiled in 2007.
Dr Johnson’s cat Hodge is commemorated in a bronze outside Dr Johnson’s house in Gough Square of whom his fond owner said “he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed”.
Peter also touched on some of the murals in London. The mural in Cable Street depicting the notorious battle of Cable Street in 1936 when Mosley’s supporters clashed with anti-fascists, and the anti-fascists with the police who tried to allow the Blackshirts’ march.
Banksy is the source of another more light-hearted mural in Pollard Street which turns a double-yellow line into a flower, with what might be a self-portrait of the artist in the corner.
These were just some of the works of art which even Londoners may not be completely familiar with – it would be impossible to cover in this newsletter everything we were shown but let’s not forget to look for Wellington’s nose on Admiralty Arch next time we are in London! A very interesting and entertaining view of London’s art.