Winston Churchill, Barbara Hepworth, a boar, a donkey and a gorilla: 16 UK public art sculptures

By Culture24 Reporter | 22 January 2016

As Historic England announces listed status for dozens of post-war sculptures, here are 16 of them to look out for

Winston Churchill Statue (1958-59), Junction of Woodford Green High Road and Broomhill Walk, Woodford, London

A photo of a sculptor of the politician winston churchill
© Historic England
Churchill is in his later years in this one, set in the Woodford constituency which he was MP for between 1945 and his death in 1965.

This was one of the earliest works produced by David McFall, the figurative sculptor who produced it in bronze, and one of the first public statues in Britain of Churchill, whose reported admiration of his likeness is supported by his attendance at its unveiling.

The Miner (1964), Junction of St Helens Linkway and A58, St Helens, Lancashire

A photo of a green stone sculpture of a male minder carrying a large block of stone
© Historic England
Arthur Fleischmann’s piece incorporates a cutting drum – a genuine piece of mining machinery, reflecting the technical advances in mining and the strength of man.

A large bronze bust of a man raising a heavy lump of coal from the ground sits atop it, originally commissioned for the north-west headquarters of the National Coal Board but now placed near the Ravenhead Colliery, which closed when the reserves ran out.

The Spirit of Electricity (1961), Westminster

A photo of a large thin green stone sculpture clamped to a circular white building
© Historic England
It is said that Geoffrey Clarke came up with this design (it originally lit up) after studying old light bulb filaments in the Science Museum, although it’s also an example of post-war corporate investment in public sculpture, having been ordered by Thorn Electrical Industries for their London headquarters.

One of Britain’s most commissioned sculptors of the 20th century, Clarke was admired for using innovative materials such as aluminium and polystyrene when casting sculptures.

Lesson (1956-7), Junction of Gosset Street and Turin Street, Avebury Estate, Bethnal Green, London

A photo of a large circular building on a city street
© Historic England
“You have to humanise the environment…something that gives it spirit,” espoused Czech-born artist Franta Belsky, who created this London County Council-commissioned piece from a sketch of her friend tenderly teaching her baby son to plod.

Familial portraits were a popular theme in public spaces after the war, embodying the optimistic spirit of reconstruction and even the state’s matriarchal self-image.

London Pride (1951), South Bank, London

A photo of a stone sculpture of a woman teaching a baby boy how to walk
© Historic England
“I like my gals full and round,” confessed Frank Dobson, the maker of this for the Festival of Britain.

Serene, voluptuous and originally made in age-of-austerity plaster and gun metal, the work – said to have influenced the council’s later Patronage of the Arts scheme – was recast in bronze at the behest of Dobson’s widow.

Revolving Torsion (1975), St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London

A photo of a stone sculpture of two female figures sitting on a plinth in a city centre
© Historic England
Naum Gabo and his brother questioned the use of colour and “static rhythms” in traditional art, instead believing that art took form when moving, which is why this piece once revolved.

Tate commissioned these abstract, curved steel plates, forming a fountain in St Thomas’ Hospital’s tranquil garden between the hospital and the Thames, with the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop. Gabo believed that art should be found where it could be experienced in everyday life.

Gorilla (1962), Crystal Palace Park, London

A photo of a stone sculpture of a gorilla within a park
© Historic England
Guy the gorilla, who this hulking marble sculpture depicts, was a major attraction at London Zoo and something of a national treasure during the 1960s.

David Wynne captured the mass, muscle and power of the gorilla. Wynne was fascinated by animal forms, studying the behaviour and movements of animals during countless hours at the zoo.

Wild Boar (1970), The Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex

A photo of a green stone sculpture of a boar standing in the middle of an urban river
© Historic England
Wild Boar is one of Elisabeth Frink’s first major public commissions for the pioneering Harlow Art Trust.

She was very interested in boars, calling them “very fascinating, shy creatures”. A repeated fan of birds, horses, dogs and other animals, she continued to make sculptures and prints of boars well after this particular sculpture was finished.

Donkey (1955), Harlow

A photo of a green stone sculpture of a donkey
© Historic England
Willi Soukop’s scale and stylisation of this sweet little donkey mean it is enjoyed by a range of people, young and old at the heart of a housing scheme in Harlow – a New Town in Hertfordshire which amassed a collection of high quality sculptures for public spaces.

The donkey’s back, alas, is now worn to a shine, although its erosion proves the love it has won as a play sculpture. These sculptures were created to encourage children to explore art through play using contrasting shapes and textures.

Untitled [Listening] (1983-4), Maygrove Peace Park, London

A photo of a stone sculpture of a figure crouching on a plinth with its hand to its ear
© Historic England
One of by Antony Gormley’s first public sculpture commissions is the first of his pieces to be listed. Cupping its ear to listen and rooted to a huge granite boulder, Listening embodies the relationship between the interior world of the human body and its spatial surroundings.

It was commissioned as a reminder of Camden Council’s commitment to peace, with the park formally opened on the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki.

Single Form (Memorial) (1961-62).Battersea Park, London, 1961-62

A photo of a circular green stone sculpture in a park next to a river and a dog
© Historic England
Single Form was Barbara Hepworth’s personal response to the death of her friend, the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammaskjold, who was killed in a plane crash during a peace mission to the Congo.

The memorial also served as the model for a much larger version outside the United National Secretariat building in New York – the most prestigious commission of Hepworth’s career.

Horse and Rider (1975), London

A photo of a stone sculpture of a man on horseback
© Historic England
Curators speak of an innocent, serene quality to Frink’s subtly-composed man and horse in this piece.

The artist once said that the piece was “to do with freedom”, and figurative sculptures of animals, particularly horses, and men dominated her work.

Statue of Artist Augustus John (1964-67), Fordingbridge

A photo of a stone sculpture of a man standing on a plinth within a park
© Historic England
Ivor Roberts-Jones, who created this intimate portrayal of an eminent artist in his later years, gave his statue a sense of energy and frustration, setting it on the banks of the river Avon, in Fordingbridge, where he lived in the latter part of his life.

The impression is of the painter, having abruptly left a pub across the road, making his determined way on unsteady legs along the river towards his home.

Rosewall (Curved Reclining Form) (1960-62), Chesterfield, Derbyshire

A photo of a circular white stone sculpture on a plinth within parkland
© Historic England
Barbara Hepworth named this – “the stone is myself looking to the Atlantic,” she said - after a hill in Cornwall which is surrounded by ancient stones worn by time and weather.

Hepworth was gazing out to the Atlantic, absorbing the sound and smell of the sea”. She had won a scholarship to study stone carving in Italy in the early 1920s, and throughout the earlier part of her career worked predominantly in wood and stone.

Pan Statue (1958-59), Knightsbridge, London

A photo of a stone sculpture of various figures appearing to rush forward within a park
© Historic England
Jacob Epstein originally named this “Rush of Green”. Accompanied by Pan, a family rush away from the urban traffic in search of the green escape of Hyde Park.

It received a mixed reception but many have celebrated its reckless sense of energy, proclaiming it to be Epstein at his happiest. This was the last piece he made before he died.

  • Out There: Our Post-War Public Art is at Somerset House, London from February 3 - April 10 2016. Find all the newly-listed public artworks on this Google Map.

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