Friday 26 December 2008

Swiss Cottage and the sculpture

This is one of those things that you walk past and don't really notice - I know I have passed it on literally hundreds of occasions - so I stopped and had a read.

The inscription reads:
"The Hampstead Figure
F E McWilliam 1964"

I'm not sure that I appreciated that it is in fact an abstracted female figure on a plinth!

So I undertook some digging and discovered that F.E. McWilliam (1909-1992) was an Irish sculptor from Banbridge, County Down.

A student at Belfast School of Art and Slade School of Fine Art in London. Intially he studied painting by soon turned to sculpture.

At fiurst he sculpted in wood and drew heavily on African art with primitive and simple forms. He then moved to surrealist forms and drew on the notion of exploring fragments and a sarcasm and a wit that was sometimes shocking.

His commisions are many and include:
  • The Four Seasons for the Festival of Britain, 1951
  • Father Courage for Kent University at Canterbury, New Zealand, 1960
  • Hampstead Figure at Swiss Cottage, London, 1964.

He saw active service in India in the Second World War but returned to teach at Chelsea School of Art and at the Slade. He joined the London Group in 1949, RBA in 1950 and was elected an RA associate in 1959, resigning four years later.

His work is represented in many major national collections including the Tate Gallery, London and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Retrospectives held at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, 1981 and Tate Gallery, 1989. Lived and worked in London.

It's worth noting that this is listed:

Location: (East side)
'The Hampstead Figure', Sculpture to north of Swiss Cottage LibraryStreet: Avenue Road
Grade: II
Reference No: 798-1-1007461
Date of listing: Aug 6 1999 12:00AM

Reclining abstracted female figure on plinth. 1964 by F E McWilliam. Bronze. Inscribed 'The Hampstead Figure, 1964' and signed. Commissioned as part of the group of civic buildings for the borough of Hampstead by Sir Basil Spence, Bonnington and Collins, with which it forms a close and complementery grouping. F E McWilliam (1909-92) was a noted and prolific British sculpture, whose public works have not survived well.

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