Top Five Public Sculptures: Eastbourne

The PCF’s Sculpture Collection Researcher, Dr Anthony McIntosh, chooses his top five public sculptures in Eastbourne, East Sussex:

It couldn’t be said that Eastbourne is overflowing with public sculpture, but there are some important pieces in the town.

5. Memorial to John Wesley Woodward – Titanic Memorial, Charles Godfrey Garrard, 1914, 76cm x 145cm, Lower Parade underneath the columns in the bandstand arenaEestbourne 1John Wesley Woodward was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, but was associated with Eastbourne as a member of the Duke of Devonshire’s band in the town. He was a cello player and in the past had appeared both as a soloist and as a member of several well-known string quartets. He joined the White Star Line around 1909 and was on board the Olympic when she collided with H.M.S. Hawke, narrowly escaping injury as he was in the cabin with three colleagues just where the Hawke struck. Woodward died in the sinking of the Titanic during its maiden voyage on 15 April 1912, along with all the other ship’s musicians. The bronze and granite memorial was unveiled by the opera singer, Clara Butt.

This is an interesting curiosity in the town and it was restored in 2012 in time for the centenary of the disaster. The only unfortunate aspect is that it is not visible unless you enter the bandstand colonnades.

4. Eighteen Thousand Tides, David Nash, 1996, Manor Gardens, Borough LaneEastbourne 2David Nash was invited by the Towner Art Gallery to create a new outdoor sculpture in Manor Gardens. As the only durable wood for exterior sculpture is oak, he was shown oak trees that were damaged and due to be cut down, and the groynes at Eastbourne seafront which were to be replaced. He envisioned a group of oak buttresses, “standing vertically in a circle, creating a ‘place’, unusual and intriguing as an image and as a place to enter, majestic and quiet and contemplative”. It was the first time that Nash had worked with sea weathered timber. Nash says, “The timbers in this sculpture have been formed by the relentless breathing of tides, the sea pressing against Eastbourne over twenty-five years, eighteen thousand breaths. The living oak, before being a buttress, wove the elements of mineral, water, air and light to form its physical body; when no longer a tree the wood retains an echo of those elemental forces and through water erosion their image is magnified, each buttress becoming unique.” The buttresses measure between 2.5 and 4 metres in height.

I have visited this piece many times and the wonderful thing about it I find is the changing colours of the wood depending on the season and the weather – there is always something new to appreciate about the work.

3. War Memorial, Henry Charles Fehr, 1920, 488cm high, junction of Devonshire Place and Trinity TreesEastbourne 3The memorial was unveiled by General Lord Horne, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., the well-known commander of the First Army. As there were 1,065 names of the Fallen from Eastbourne, it was decided to erect sixteen oak panels in the Town Hall on which they would be carved rather than the original proposal to carve the names on the plinth. The bronze statue representing the ‘Angel of Victory’ is particularly striking.

2. Royal Sussex Memorial, William Goscombe John, 1906, approx. 5.5m high, junction of Elms Avenue and Cavendish Place, opposite the PierEastbourne 4The statue was unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Lietenant of Sussex and a Major of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Sussex Battalion, in the presence of a Guard of Honour of the Royal Sussex Regiment. The figure is depicted in the uniform of the Bengal Regiment, one of the old regiments of the East India Company. When the East India Company came to an end the regiment was taken over by the Government and became the 107th regiment which in turn became the 2nd. Battalion. The monument is listed Grade II*.

Being on the seafront, I pass this monument so many times, but am always slightly amused by the figure’s somewhat ‘jaunty’ pose!

1. Statue of 7th Duke of Devonshire, Edward Alfred Briscoe Drury, 1910, approx. 5.5m high, King Edwards ParadeEastbourne 5The Dukes of Devonshire created much of Eastbourne’s modern town and its elegant and iconic seafront. William Cavendish, 7th Duke from 1858, inherited a large estate there in 1834 and appointed Decimus Burton, the renowned architect, to draw up plans for building homes. Burton, however, was more interested in carrying out his outstanding work a little further east at St Leonards. He resigned after producing just one church in Eastbourne. The Duke subsequently appointed the less well known James Berry to produce plans for the seafront. Work began on large houses and a promenade before Berry fell out of favour and was replaced by Henry Currey, who remained in post until the 7th Duke died in 1891. There is a seated statue of the 7th Duke by William Goscombe John on the seafront at the junction of Cavendish Place.

This Grade II bronze statue is of Spencer Compton, 8th Duke of Devonshire and was erected on the Western Lawns two years after the Duke’s death. It was unveiled by the Duke of Norfolk. The 8th Duke of Devonshire was Mayor of Eastbourne between 1897 and 1898. The statue portrays him in the robes of a Chancellor of Cambridge University and is rich with detail including the pince-nez held in his right hand – this was his habit when addressing a public assembly.

Interestingly the sculptor, Alfred Drury, is the grandfather of Jolyon Drury, a trustee of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.

Find out more about the public monuments and sculpture of Sussex at: http://www.publicsculpturesofsussex.co.uk/

There is also a book of the Sussex public monuments and sculpture, published by Liverpool University Press: http://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/products/60804

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Testing the Photography of Sculpture: Pilot 1, York

An important part of our project Development Phase is to test out how we can produce consistent, high-quality images of sculpture in varied locations and situations across the UK. During the project Delivery Phase (subject to a successful second-round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund), we will be employing multiple professional photographers, who between them will photograph an estimated 85,000 sculptures in 2,800 participating public collections.

We need to be able to work in lots of different places and settings, so it’s important to test out now how that might work. Some sculptures will be on public display, but we estimate that around 80% of works will be in storage. Many sculptures will not be able to be moved and will be photographed in situ, but some might be suitable to move into a temporary studio set up in a store, office or corner of a gallery.

We will be doing two pilot photography sessions during the Development Phase – the first at York Art Gallery, then in late August we’ll go to Paisley Museum & Art Galleries. Both institutions have kindly given up their time to let us practice on their collections.

We spent three days at York Art Gallery this week in what turned out to be a very busy time for their staff! The art gallery has been closed for refurbishment for some time and re-opens on 1 August 2015 after £8m of improvements, including new galleries and the creation of the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA). The staff let us work around them, with us photographing the sculptures on display as they attended to their finishing touches in the galleries.

CoCA houses the most representative public collection of British studio ceramics in the UK and this fact brought the first dilemma – when is an artwork a sculpture and when is it studio pottery? A number of the pieces in their collection could fall into both categories, so whilst we were there we decided to photograph some of the more ‘sculptural’ studio pottery works, for further consideration. This included a ceramic figure by Grayson Perry (below) and a figure of Madonna and Child by Philip Eglin. We need to give some more thought to how we define sculpture and how we communicate our remit to the collections, so I’ll be bringing this up with the Your Sculpture Steering Panel at our next meeting.2015-07-20 10.17.09Our photographer, Colin White, was keen to test the photography of sculpture of different sizes, shapes and surfaces in a variety of different locations around the building. Colin had a plan for using the minimum amount of equipment during the shoot, to ensure that the methodology is easily transferrable to other photographers across the UK. Using one light, a roll of paper on a stand for the background and large pieces of card, he was able to adapt his equipment for all of the locations in which the sculpture was displayed.2015-07-20 12.08.44Coordinator Alison Mitchelson gave Colin a hand whenever he needed it, such as holding a piece of card to prevent glare on shiny sculptures:2015-07-20 12.24.41Alison and I also looked at how the Coordinators might record the sculptures during the Delivery Phase digitisation and tested a checklist we had devised in advance.

Colin took multiple images of each work, but one set of sculptures are displayed high up on the wall over the staircase, so in this case he was only able to take one shot of each work:2015-07-20 14.58.37Works in display cases or with reflective surfaces were photographed with the camera poking through a black piece of card. This prevented the camera equipment and the photographer being reflected in the photograph:2015-07-21 10.14.35After completing photography in the galleries, we moved into the art store, where we set up a temporary studio area. The same photographic equipment was used in the studio setting, but instead of taking the camera to the sculptures, the sculptures were brought in one at a time and put on the table:2015-07-21 13.25.57On the last day, Colin tested out taking multiple images of a sculpture for photogrammetry (below), to create a 3D image of the work. We look forward to seeing the results.2015-07-22 11.03.59I will put some of the completed sculpture images into a separate blog post once they have been processed.

Thanks again to all the staff at York Art Gallery, especially Martin Fell and Graham Thorne, for accommodating us at such a busy time. The galleries look amazing and I would urge you to visit once it’s re-opened.

Where’s Kitty? Cat sculpture spotting in York

We’ve been in York this week, testing our techniques for photographing sculpture in the York Art Gallery collection (more on that in a separate post). In advance of my trip, I Googled ‘sculpture in York’ to see what public art or monuments I might be able to see around the city. Apart from finding a hairdressers’ called Sculpture, my search led me to a statue of artist William Etty (1787-1849), gleaming white after recent cleaning, outside the art gallery; railwayman and politician George Leeman (1809-1882) near the station; and Roman Emperor Constantine (274-337) looking imperious beside York Minster (below). Constantine was sculpted by Philip Jackson in 1998.2015-07-19 19.34.38-1I also spotted a very fine statue of a Friesian calf in the courtyard of King’s Manor, one of the buildings owned by the University of York (below). Sculpted by Sally Arnup, it was acquired by the University in 1996.2015-07-20 16.57.24-1These statues are easy to find, but there is a whole set of smaller sculptures that call for some serious squinting and neck craning to spot. My internet searching led me to a website, Cats in York, devoted to cat statuettes and other decorative cats dotted around the city. The site lists over 20 cat statuettes and provides information on their location, installation date and how visible they are from ground level. Some were installed in the 19th century and early 20th century, but many were the signature of local architect Tom Adams to show which buildings he had worked on.

I followed the website’s Cat Hunt to five of these statuettes. The first one I found is a black cat sitting on a high window ledge in Coney Street:2015-07-19 19.11.47 HDRThe second cat I spotted is also sitting on a window ledge, looking out across the road towards the entrance to Museum Gardens:2015-07-19 19.16.33Two cats can be seen on one building in Colliergate. One is climbing up the wall and the other is in relief next to a shop sign:2015-07-19 19.25.56 HDR2015-07-19 19.27.36I just had time to find one more before it got too dark, so headed to Gillygate to find a white cat perched above the entrance to a shop:2015-07-19 19.40.45I asked a couple of people who know York well if they were aware of the cat statuettes and neither had heard of them or ever spotted one. It shows that we need to look more closely at the places we live and visit, as we might find something surprising.

To find out more about the cat statuettes, visit the Cats in York website.