Top Five Public Sculptures: Cardiff

Cardiff is home to over 200 public artworks, from 19th-century commemorative statues to abstract works and celebrations of local industries commissioned as part of 20th-century regeneration projects. It is not difficult to spot many public sculptures as you walk around and they enhance what is already a fascinating City.

This is my personal top five. Let us know if you have any other favourites.

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5. Nereid, by Nathan David, 1996, The Friary

In Greek mythology, the Nereids are sea nymphs which often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea. This bronze nymph stands on a wave, above a shoal of fish, and holds a sea bird in her left hand. Nereids can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms, so hopefully this one will offer some protection to the sailors setting out from Cardiff harbour.

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4. Sculptures on the National Museums Wales, 1914–1915, Cathays Park

You’ll need to look up to the top of the building to see these sculptures. A number of different sculptors designed the embellishment to the National Museum, including John Thomas Clapperton, Gilbert Bayes, Richard Louis Garbe, Bertram Pegram and David Evans. Some sculptures represent industries and artistic pursuits, including shipping, mining, music and learning. The figurative groups at the front of the building represent different historical periods – prehistoric, classical, medieval and modern. The image above shows the prehistoric and classical periods, both designed by Gilbert Bayes.

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3. All Hands, by Brian Fell, 2001, Custom House Street

Installed alongside the Glamorganshire Canal, this large sculpture depicts the hands of canal workers pulling their boats along with heavy ropes. The Glamorganshire Canal used to run from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff Docks, transporting raw materials from the valleys into Cardiff and beyond, but it went out of use in the 1940s. Most of the canal has been filled in.

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2. Alight, by S. Mark Gubb, 2014, Mary Ann Street

A fairly new public artwork in the City Centre, this 10-metre high illuminated lightning bolt, made from painted steel and glass, was commissioned by Admiral Group, Stoford Developments and EMP Projects, and is sited outside Admiral’s offices. Alight was designed to contain movement and its sides are inset with coloured lights that scroll down from top to bottom, making it very eye-catching, especially when it gets dark.

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1. Welsh National War Memorial by Sir J. Ninian Comper, 1928, Alexandra Gardens

This striking monument commemorates the servicemen and women who died during World War I. A commemorative plaque for those who died during World War II was added in 1949.

The memorial has a circular colonnade surrounding a sunken court, at the centre of which is a group of three bronze sculptures arranged around a stone pylon. The three figures are a soldier, a sailor and an airman, each holding a wreath. Above them, on top of the structure, is a winged male nude representing Victory.

The memorial was designed by Sir Ninian Comper and sculpted by Alfred Pegram. The stone masons were William D. Gough and Messrs E. Turner & Sons. The bronze statues were cast by A. B. Burton.

If you want to find out more about Cardiff’s public art, the city council has produced a Public Art Register. Their Public Art Strategy is also available online.

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Lorenzo Bartolini’s The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz

Holly Trusted, Senior Curator of Sculpture at the V&A, tells us about a recent acquisition by the museum. Holly is also a member of the steering panel for Art UK’s sculpture project, which will enable people to discover fascinating sculptures like this in public collections across the UK.

This remarkable sculpture by the Florentine sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777–1850) is an outstanding addition to the collections of the National Galleries of Scotland and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was acquired jointly by Edinburgh and London in 2015, with the generous assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund. The sculpture is a lively visual evocation of music and dance, as well as a charming portrait of the two sisters: a full-length portrait in marble of these vivacious young women in an affectionate embrace. The gnarled tree trunk between them is inscribed with the sculptor’s name and a dedication to the British artist John Flaxman (1755–1826): ‘BARTOLINI / FECE / E DEDICÒ / FLAXMAN’. The whole is set on a circular white marble plinth adorned with garlands of flowers.

Bartolini image

The two dancing figures depict Emma and Julia Campbell, the youngest daughters of Lady Charlotte Campbell, who was herself the youngest daughter of the 5th Duke of Argyll. Lady Charlotte’s husband, John Campbell, had died in 1809, leaving his widow with eight children. In 1816, having served as lady-in-waiting to Caroline, Princess of Wales for several years, Lady Charlotte moved to Florence, partly evidently in order to save money. There in 1818 she married the Reverend Edward John Bury, formerly tutor to her eldest son. Emma and Julia Campbell still lived with their mother, but it seems unlikely that she alone ordered the group, since she enjoyed only a small income, and the cost, according to Bartolini’s accounts, was 500 luigi, about £500. The sculptor recorded that it was commissioned by the sitters’ brother. But the eldest son of Lady Charlotte, Walter Campbell (1798–1855), appears to be an unlikely patron. More plausibly the young women’s uncle, Lady Charlotte’s brother, the 6th Duke of Argyll, could have commissioned it.

After the death of Antonio Canova in 1822, Bartolini was arguably the greatest living Italian sculptor, although his contemporary reputation was ambivalent, mainly for political reasons. Nevertheless, once the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) had left Rome for Copenhagen in 1838, the Florentine artist was virtually without a rival in the field of sculpture in his native land until his death in 1850. Specialising in portraiture, but also producing mythological and genre subjects in marble, Bartolini combined a pure classicist style with the naturalism which came from his training and working in France.

Born near Prato, Bartolini initially trained as an alabaster carver in Volterra, and then enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. In 1797 he settled in Paris, where he continued his training as both a painter and sculptor, and became a close friend of Jean-August-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867). The two artists occupied a studio formerly used by the painter Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), whose austere neo-classical style profoundly influenced the two younger artists.

Bartolini gained many influential patrons in Paris, not least Napoleon, whose portrait in bronze he executed in 1805. In 1806 he left France to become Director of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, which had been newly founded by Napoleon’s sister, Eliza, Princess of Piombo and Grand Duchess of Tuscany. With the disintegration of Napoleon’s rule in 1813, Eliza was dethroned, and Bartolini, closely associated with the Napoleonic régime, fled to Livorno, his studio in Carrara having been looted. Eventually, after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, Bartolini returned to Florence, where he thrived as a society sculptor, though his past active support for Napoleon meant that he was unpopular amongst many of his compatriots. Meanwhile his leanings towards a more naturalistic French style were seen by some to be at odds with the prevailing neo-classical language then in vogue. Mary Berry noted in 1817, he ‘makes very good likenesses in his busts, but he works to sell, and not to immortalise his name.’ Among his eminent sitters were Byron, Liszt, Rossini, and Anatole Demidoff.

Bartolini was in fact an eclectic and complex artist, enamoured of the Florentine quattrocento, as well as neo-classical purity and naturalistic observation. Moreover he greatly admired the British sculptor John Flaxman (1755–1826) (as did Ingres), as can be seen from the inscribed dedication on the plinth of the present group. Flaxman’s drawings and engravings, notably his illustrations to Homer, were praised above all by his contemporaries. As this implies, the British artist was most often emulated by his Continental peers because of his command of draughtsmanship and the relief form. Perhaps here, in a figure group which was full of movement and emphatically three-dimensional, Bartolini felt nonetheless indebted to his older British contemporary because of the complex and controlled design of the whole. Possibly too Flaxman’s British nationality was seen to be in harmony with that of the sitters.

Bartolini had a life-long interest in music, and apparently sang to the accompaniment of Ingres playing the violin. The French painter was indeed in Florence at the time The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz was carved, since Bartolini had invited him to come to Tuscany from Paris. The present group could also be seen as a counterpoint to Canova’s celebrated Three Graces, (also co-owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the V&A). But in reality Bartolini’s sculpture is unique, not only in comparison to the output of his predecessors and contemporaries, but even within his own oeuvre.

This sculpture is the only example of a major commission of a figure group from a British patron given to the artist, who was to become one of the leading European sculptors of his day. Because Bartolini devoted much of his career to the production of portrait busts, this superlative full-length piece stands out as an exceptional work: it is both animated and tender. It is of its time, in that it is an unmistakably early nineteenth-century work, but simultaneously breaks away from the conventional sculpted portrait, suggesting the youth and vibrancy of the two sisters. It is thus an admirable addition to the national collections of sculpture.

Dr Holly Trusted FSA, Senior Curator of Sculpture, Victoria and Albert Museum and member of the Art UK Sculpture Project steering panel

Image credit: the V&A.

Sculptures with attitude – a digital activity for young people

What do you get if you cross a public sculpture with a group of teen somethings? I suppose it could be many things, but our experience tells us you get sculptures with attitude…

We asked a group of music-mad teenagers if they were interested in public sculpture. 55% said ‘perhaps’. Could they name any sculptures? Well no, not really. But give them an iPad, Addtext and background eraser apps, and access to a bank of photographs of public sculptures, their imaginations ran wild. The results certainly made us chuckle.

As part of Culture 24’s Let’s Get Real: Young Audiences project, we at Art UK had the pleasure of working a group of teenagers who had signed up for a week long music workshop at The Hive in Shrewsbury. Curious to discover more about what teenagers think about sculpture and how creative they are with digital technology (very), we asked if they would like to join in with a lunchtime activity. We had been inspired by a little book, ‘Talking Statues’ by Julian Nieman, in which he gives captions and slogans to some of London’s public sculptures. These range from the witty, to the romantic, the slightly risqué to the downright daft; whatever the message, giving these public monuments something to say changes the way you look at them.

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Over the course of four lunchtime sessions, our group captioned dozens of images. Some participants were more active than others – some slogans seemed to trip off the tongue, others required a bit more thought.

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Some participants thought about the message – how could these sculptures voice issues that mattered? Others were quick to quip.

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The project was fun, light-hearted and greatly enjoyable. Some young people stretched themselves further and used the background eraser app to cut out their sculptures and relocate them to a Shrewsbury backdrop.

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How did this project affect me? Well, I now walk around putting words in other sculptures’ mouths. And I think our group of teenagers do too – 70% thought they would notice public sculptures more in the future as a result of the project.

60% also said that the project had increased their interest in using digital art-resources. Art UK is the nation’s online home for public collections with over 200,000 oil paintings, which will shortly be supplemented by watercolours, prints, drawings and from next year, sculpture. We aim to be a digital art resource for everyone – young and old.

80% of participants said they would like to share their results on social media. Over the coming days we will do just that, in partnership with The Hive. You can see the results on Instagram: @artukdotorg, Twitter: @artukdotorg and Facebook: Art UK. Do share your own versions with us here at Art UK.

Camilla Stewart, Art UK Commercial Partnerships Manager

Photo credits: Katey Goodwin and Camilla Stewart

Top Five Public Sculptures: Llandudno

I recently found myself with a free morning in Llandudno, a beautiful seaside town on the north Wales coast. Searching for things to do in the Tourist Information Office, I discovered that the best way to explore the town on foot is by following their Alice in Wonderland Trail. This was especially interesting as the main markers on the trail are a series of sculptures and statues. As part of Art UK’s upcoming sculpture project, it is public sculptures like these which will be catalogued and photographed, and made available for free on Art UK, giving world-wide access to public art and monuments across the UK.

The connection between Llandudno and Alice in Wonderland is through Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice – Alice Liddell, whose family had a holiday home in the town. The landscape is also thought to have inspired Carroll, as some local landmarks make an appearance in the Alice books. Some of the rocks on the western shore, for example, are thought to be the Walrus and the Carpenter.

I bought a trail leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre, but the trail can also be downloaded as an app. Both cost £2.99. Following the trail around the whole town would probably take a whole day and because I didn’t have time to visit every point on the map, I chose a few sculptures that would take me around the town, along Llandudno Bay and across to the West Shore. Here are my highlights:

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  1. The White Rabbit, North Western Gardens, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

Located in the middle of Llandudno, this large rabbit clasps his over-sized watch under his arm. His pose makes it looks as if he will run off any moment to his next appointment.

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  1. Alice, on the corner of Augusta Street and Vaughan Street, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

Alice herself is depicted in a larger than life statue in front of a small door, having just consumed the ‘Eat Me’ cake.

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  1. The Mad Hatter, Promenade, North Shore, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

The Mad Hatter sits on the sea-front holding a teapot, with the dormouse by his side. This was a popular attraction on the sunny spring morning I was in Llandudno and I had to queue up to take a photograph.

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  1. The Queen of Hearts, Gloddaeth Street, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

This imposing statue of the Queen of Hearts depicts her in the middle of shouting ‘Off with her head!’

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  1. The Cheshire Cat, Gloddaeth Avenue, 2012, carved wood by Simon Hedger

This lovely, big ginger cat has a grin so large it takes up most of his face.

All of these sculptures were made by Simon Hedger, who was commissioned to create this series of characters by Llandudno Council to commemorate the 160th anniversary of Alice Liddell’s birth. They were all carved from a giant oak tree sourced in Bedfordshire.

There are many more sculptures to explore around the town, including a whole park of Alice-related sculptures in Happy Valley commissioned in 2000 as part of a National Lottery refurbishment programme. Unrelated to Alice in Wonderland, I am going to squeeze in one last sculpture – this Kashmir goat which sits on top of the Great Orme at the edge of the town.

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Sculpted by Graham High, the goat was installed in 2002 at the opening of the refurbished visitor centre. It’s worth pretending to be a mountain goat and climb to the top of the Great Orme, as on the day I was there it was so clear you could see across to the Isle of Man.

All images by Katey Goodwin.

Elisabeth Frink sculptures inspire an arts project at RAF Cosford

As part of our forthcoming sculpture project, we will be looking at ways to use sculpture as part of fun, informative learning activities for young people. It’s always great to hear from organisations that are already working with sculpture as part of their education programme, as their work can help inspire out future plans.

One of Art UK’s Founder Partners, the Royal Air Force Museum at Cosford, Shropshire, are embarking on an arts-led project, with some help from a group of local school children, inspired by the work of British sculptor Dame Elisabeth Frink. For the duration of the project, two Elisabeth Frink sculptures from the museum’s collection will be displayed together at Cosford for the very first time and will inspire youngsters to create their own masterpiece.

The team at the RAF Museum Cosford tells us: ‘The RAF Museum’s sculpture project aims to engage younger visitors with more unusual artefacts from their collection. The larger bronze sculpture is normally held in storage at the RAF Museum’s London site, but has been brought to Cosford especially for this project. The two examples of winged figures sculpted during the 1960s, both resemble a man’s legs morphing into a bird, representative of her work during that period. Some of her most famous work includes the ‘Walking Madonna’ at Salisbury Cathedral, ‘Risen Christ’ at Liverpool Cathedral and ‘The War Horse’ at Chatsworth.Elisabeth_Frink_Sculptures_RAFMuseumCosford

Frink was one of the most influential female sculptures of the 20th century, creating art from the 1950s up until her death in 1993. She was most notable for her bronze sculptures which varied in scale and feeling, but always fell into five main themes: war and flight, beasts, religion, heads and man. By far her greatest obsession was with mankind and she was deeply critical of the male psyche, man’s inhumanity to man and refused to indulge in the glorification of war. She broke boundaries, exploring new territories and was always moving forward experimenting with new approaches in response to what was happening in the world around her.

On 1 March this year, a group of pupils from Regency House School in Worcester began the first stage of the sculpture project being led by the Access and Learning team at the RAF Museum Cosford. The participating pupils, studying art GCSE, visited the museum and took part in a sculpture workshop, run by Marie Cooper from Wolverhampton Art Gallery. During the workshop children studied the Elisabeth Frink sculptures on display, before using an easy to mould wax and bronze paint to experiment with their own ideas, inspired by Frink’s work.

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Two schools are taking part in this exciting new project and in April, students from Abraham Darby Academy in Telford will also take part in the sculpture workshop. After getting their sculptures underway at the museum, pupils from both schools will continue their work back in the classroom, using other materials including mod-roc, clay and wire frames, to build a sizeable sculpture of their own, building on the knowledge they have gained during the workshop. Whilst the hands-on work is underway in the classroom, students are encouraged to carry out further research into the topic and look into the life experiences that inspired Frink’s work. RAF Museum Cosford Education Assistant Lisa Fawcett said that “working with the Frink sculptures from the collection has been a real privilege. The students offered their personal responses to works that can be challenging to interpret and have made this project a real success.”

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During the summer term, the students will be invited back to the RAF Museum for a special unveiling event, where their completed sculptures will go on display alongside those of Elisabeth Frink. The student’s sculptures will be displayed in the museum’s Visitor Centre throughout the summer and will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors.

The project has been made possible thanks to the support of the Wrekin Decorative and Fine Arts Society (Wrekin DFAS), a charity dedicated to promoting interest and understanding in the arts for all ages. Later this year Wrekin DFAS will sponsor a lecture on Frink by an expert on the subject, which will be open to participating students and interested members of the public. Keep an eye on the museum’s website for details.’

For further information about the museum, please visit www.rafmuseum.org/cosford or call 01902 376200. The museum is open daily from 10am and entry to the museum is FREE of charge. Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Shifnal, Shropshire, TF11 8UP.

All images: ©Trustees of the Royal Air Force Museum

 

Antony Gormley’s ‘A View, A Place’ – where is it now? We now know!

Historic England’s exhibition, ‘Out There: Our Post-War Public Art’, which has just opened at Somerset House, London, highlights the fates and fortunes of sculptures and reliefs created and installed across the country over the last 70 years. Whilst some have been saved, celebrated and are widely loved, many pieces of our public art have been lost, damaged, moved or destroyed.

To prepare for the exhibition, Historic England put out an appeal for information on missing or unidentified works, and received a much greater response than they anticipated. With the help of organisations such as the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (partners in our Your Sculpture project) Historic England has tracked down works that had previously been thought to be lost forever.

I was recently told about a missing sculpture last seen in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1980s. Antony Gormley’s sculpture ‘A View, A Place’ was one of a number of art works sited at the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival, which was held in the city from 1 May to 26 October 1986. ‘A View, A Place’, a life-sized lead, fibreglass and plaster statue, was positioned at the Festival’s highest point looking out over the Fowlea Valley, next an OS trigonometry marker-stone.Gormley_Sheffimage

In the following image you can just see the statue on top of the hill, provoking interest from visitors to the Garden Festival. Other sculptures can be seen in the pond in the foreground.

Gormley at The National Garden Festival 1986 . A View A Place

Apparently, after the festival had closed, the statue was removed from its position, but its current whereabouts are unknown. There is no mention of the sculpture on Antony Gormley’s website. The site is now completely enclosed by woodland, although the OS marker stills remains.

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Update (9 September 2016): I am very happy to say that I have been contacted by Vivien Lovell who was the Sculpture Co-ordinator for the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival in 1986 and commissioned the Antony Gormley ‘A View, a Place’ amongst many other artworks. Vivien reports that the sculpture ‘was damaged towards the end of the Festival and returned to Antony when the Festival ended. The hollow eyes of the lead sculpture had become distended by people poking their fingers into the work. I photographed the damage and sent slides to Antony and he and I agreed that the sculpture should be de-installed and returned to him at his studio. … The work in question by Antony Gormley was not a purchase commission for permanent installation: the artist was paid a facility fee to create the work as a temporary piece on the basis that it was returned to him after the Festival.’ Antony Gormley has confirmed with Vivien that the sculpture was returned to him at the time and is still in his storage.

Many thanks to Vivien for this most useful update.

Some of the other artworks from the National Garden Festival still exist and have been re-sited around the City:

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Her Head, 1986, by Dhruva Mistry, now installed in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Commissioned for the National Garden Festival in 1986 with funds from the Henry Moore Foundation, then donated to the City of Stoke-on-Trent in 1987.

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Capo, 1986, by Vincent Woropay, now installed in Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent. This colossal brick head of Josiah Wedgwood was in storage for many years before being repositioned in 2009. It is now sited by Etruria Hall, previously the home of Josiah Wedgwood and close to the location of his 1769 pottery factory. Etruria Hall (which can be seen in the background) is now part of a hotel.

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Tree Thought, 1986, Denise de Cordova, now installed in the Secret Garden at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. Made from Ancaster Stone, a Jurassic oolitic limestone, about 170 million years old, from Lincolnshire.

Image credits, from top to bottom:

By SleafordSue (via English Wikipedia) – Uploaded at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9741722

Image taken by Dave Ball, 1986. ©Sheffield Hallam University http://public-art.shu.ac.uk/other/0000008b.htm

Image taken by ©Terry Woolliscroft, 1986, and reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder

Image taken by ©Glen Stoker, 2012. http://glenstoker.co.uk/index.php/work/once

Images of Her Head, Capo and Tree Thought by Katey Goodwin, 2015.

 

Call for papers: Émigré Sculptors Conference 2016

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The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) and 3rd Dimension, in collaboration with the City and Guilds of London Art School, will be presenting a two-day conference in London on 26 and 27 May 2016, looking at the ways émigré sculptors working in Britain between 1540 and the present day have contributed to the development of British sculpture.

The conference has a broad remit, and the organisers are interested in hearing from scholars exploring a wide range of themes relating to the experience, reception and artistic activity of émigré sculptors who came to Britain during this period. While this includes those who were forced to leave their home countries due to political, social or religious pressures, such as refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930s, we are also interested in papers on artists who chose freely to migrate to Britain, whether permanently or temporarily.

Closing date for proposals for papers: 1 February 2016.

Please visit the 3rd Dimension website for further details, http://3rd-dimensionpmsa.org.uk/emigre-sculptors-conference-2016/

Image credit: ‘Alfred Wolmark’, 1913, by Henri Gaudier-Brezeska, York Art Gallery, YORAG:876. Photograph by Colin White on behalf of the Public Catalogue Foundation, 2015.