ÉMIGRÉ SCULPTORS IN BRITAIN 1500-2016
The conference, held at City and Guilds of London Art School on 26 and 27 May 2016 was chaired by Benedict Read FSA, PMSA Deputy Chairman.
Day One – 26 May 2016
The morning session on the first day covered the sixteen, seventeen and eighteenth centuries and was chaired by Professor David Bindman, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art, University College London. He is the author (with Malcolm Baker) of Roubiliac and the Eighteenth-Century Monument, 1995 and has edited various publications on John Flaxman. His most recent book on sculpture is Warm Flesh, Cold Marble: Canova, Thorvaldsen and their Critics, 2014.
The keynote paper, ‘The Foreignness of British Sculpture’ given by Professor Phillip Lindley, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Leicester, argued that immigrants dominated the production of sculpture in Britain from c.1500 until the late eighteenth century when the emphasis changed to indigenous British sculptors (fig.1). Lindley traced the contribution of immigrant sculptors from Pietro Torrigiano in the sixteenth century to Peter Scheemakers, Michael Rysbrack and Louis François Roubiliac in the eighteenth, noting how their styles, use of new materials and iconography have played an integral and crucial part in the history of British sculpture.
Former Collections and Academic Director at the Wallace Collection, Jeremy Warren, whose catalogue of the museum’s Italian sculpture was published earlier this year (review), then spoke on ‘Small Bronze Sculpture at the Court of King Charles I: Francesco Fanelli and his circle’. During his brief survey of Fanelli’s career in England, Warren made the exciting revelation that a pair of bronze andirons, which came originally from the North Drawing Room of Ham House, had just been purchased by the National Trust to be returned there and that he had identified them as models by Fanelli.
Dr. Patrick Eyres, specialist in the cultural politics of designed landscapes and editor-publisher of The New Arcadian Journal, next gave an account of the introduction of lead statuary into Britain by émigré sculptors from the Low Countries, including Arnold Quellin, John Nost I and II, Andrew Carpenter and John Cheere (fig.2). Lead dominated the burgeoning market for garden statuary in the early eighteenth century and his paper, The Nosts and the London Network of Émigré Sculptors illustrated its impact through a case study of The Blackamoor created by John Nost I for William III , which became the most popular lead statue created for eighteenth-century British gardens.
Katharine Eustace FSA, PMSA trustee and former Sculpture Journal editor, who trained at the V&A and has worked at the Bristol City Art Gallery, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the National Portrait Gallery, London, followed with a paper on Michael Rysbrack’s Bust of Benjamin Franklin. She asserted that in mid-eighteenth century Britain portrait sculpture exceeded portrait painting in competence, originality and popularity, which was largely due to émigré sculptors and she used the case study of a marble bust of Benjamin Franklin by Flemish-born sculptor, Michael Rysbrack, which appeared on the art market in 1986, to expand on this. She explained a trail of letters to and from Benjamin Franklin supports his identification as the subject of the bust and also its attribution. Eustace further cited documentation associating the bust with later events in Franklin’s life, and their visual representation by the American-born painter Benjamin West, the only American to become President of the Royal Academy.
The morning session concluded with ‘The Business Practice of Louis François Roubiliac, an immigrant sculptor in London, 1752-1762’, a paper by Dr. Tessa Murdoch, Deputy Keeper in the Department of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum and an authority on Huguenot artists. Based on information gleaned from Roubiliac’s ledgers with Drummonds Bank, Charing Cross, London, she uncovered the intriguing way in which Roubiliac’s expanding business practice worked closely both with other émigrés and with English masons, agents and craftsmen.
The afternoon session devoted to the nineteenth century was chaired by PMSA Trustee, Joanna Barnes, who organised the Pre-Raphaelite Sculpture: Nature and Imagination in British Sculpture 1848-1914, London and Birmingham (1991-2) and Leighton and his Sculptural Legacy (1996) exhibitions. A Trustee of the Arthur Fleischmann Foundation, she arranged and curated the sculptor’s centennial exhibition at the Mestske Múzeum in Bratislava (1996) and was involved in establishing the Arthur Fleischmann Museum in the sculptor’s former family home in that city.
Rebecca Senior, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) supported PhD candidate at the University of York, presented the first paper of the afternoon, ‘Émigré Allegory: Funerary Monuments and British Nationalism in the early nineteenth century’(fig.3). Making a smooth transition into the nineteenth century, this paper examined the writings of Allan Cummingham, secretary to the sculptor, Francis Chantrey, together with those of other British critics, who chastised monumental allegory’s émigré aesthetic. This, Senior said, was a pivotal moment in the history of British monumental sculpture, because in the early nineteenth century, the titular allegorical figures on funerary monuments created by émigré sculptors, which assumed the nationality of their creators, were identified as disrupting the socio-political drive to maintain the ‘purity’ of British visual culture.
Amy Harris, AHRC funded PhD candidate at the University of York and Tate Britain, then gave a paper entitled, ‘Made in Britain; Bought for the Nation: Foreign Sculptors in the Chantrey Bequest Collection of British Sculpture’. Her university thesis will explore the formation and character of a British national canon of sculpture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through an examination of the Chantrey Bequest collection at Tate Britain, which Harris explained, due to its long absence from collective display at Tate Britain, is largely forgotten. Chantrey’s will stipulated that the ‘British Art’ purchased could be by ‘artists of any Nation,’ but must have been created ‘entirely within the shores of Great Britain.’ Harris discussed how contextual definitions, legal and curatorial, imposed a national definition on this diverse collection of works by both British-born and foreign-born sculptors.
Brian Landy, the next speaker, is a specialist on Dalou and his exile in Britain, having completed his dissertation on the subject at the University of Nottingham. In his paper, ‘Dalou and the Pragmatics of Sculptural Production in Late Victorian London: 1871 to 1880’, Landy pointed out that, while much is known about Dalou’s later years in Paris, far less is understood about the nine years he spent in exile. He then explained the way in which Dalou capitalised on the fashion for statuettes in England in the nineteenth century and adapted his work to suit available materials, captivating English society with realistic, intimate themes in terracotta, which led to him being offered the prestigious role of instructor of clay modelling at the National Art Training School in South Kensington. Introducing exciting new research material, Landy argued that Dalou’s period as an émigré sculptor was an important period of formulation in forging his celebrated sculptural identity.
Dalou was also the shared subject, of the following paper, given by the former Courtauld Institute Conway Librarian, Dr. Philip Ward-Jackson, an authority on French nineteenth-century sculpture (fig.4). His entertaining talk ‘Dalou and Carpeaux – Good Frenchman, Bad Frenchman’ examined the differing degrees of assimilation in the English art-world of Jules Dalou and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, both of whom lived in London for different periods of time from 1871. Their mutual respect as artists survived their opposing political affiliation, but there were hints in their British critical reception that they were being represented as the acceptable and the unacceptable faces of the ‘picturesque school of sculpture’. Its worst face, for some, was Carpeaux’s La Danse, and Ward-Jackson looked in detail at the British response to that work, when Carpeaux showed a terracotta version at the Royal Academy. He proposed that Dalou’s Bacchanal, shown at the RA in 1879 represented this sculptor’s rejection of the role of ‘the good Frenchman’ and considered the possibility that, despite Carpeaux’s critical side-lining, this final display by Dalou of solidarity with his ‘maître’, reinforced the combined impression of these two talented foreigners, and opened the way for more equivocal subject matter and greater flexibility in its treatment amongst British sculptors at the end of the century.
It is often enlightening when a relative researches their forebears and we were fortunate in our next speaker, Caroline Hedengren-Dillon, who is married to a descendant of Baron Carlo Marochetti. She dedicates her time to researching the sculptor and assisting her husband with the conservation of Castello Marochetti, the family castle in France, and its collections. Together they organised the first Biennale d’Etudes Marochettiennes in September 2015 (review). Hedengren-Dillon’s paper, ‘Carlo Marochetti in England: a success story’, focused on the sculptor’s work in this country, where he moved after the 1848 revolution. Throughout his career here, she said, he fought xenophobia, but the difficulties he experienced did not overshadow the commissions and acclaim he received. He became a favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and won official recognition, becoming Royal Academician in 1867.
Dr. Jacqueline Banerjee, Associate Editor of The Victorian Web, then gave her paper ‘Baron Henri de Triqueti: An Artist of Sensibility and Conviction in Mid-Victorian England’ which drew attention to this sculptor’s English connections. He married Julia Forster, granddaughter of the neo-classical sculptor Thomas Banks, and later shared the London address of his assistant and mistress, Susan Durant. Banerjee feels Triqueti should be better remembered and that, while his reputation in France is assured, much of his work in England, such as the Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor on which he collaborated with George Gilbert Scott, is difficult to see and assess.
The final paper of the day was Steve Parlanti’s on ‘The availability of lost wax casting for sculptors due to the immigration of Italian artisans’ (fig.5). Parlanti is a descendant of the celebrated Italian family of art bronze founders of that name and his fascinating paper about the importance of the arrival of a small handful of Italian art bronze founders to Britain in the nineteenth century, focused on the Parlanti brothers. Having looked at what was available in terms of methods of bronze casting in this country before the arrival of these Italians, Parlanti then explained the change which occurred, with the availability of lost wax casting, once his family and other Italian art founders arrived.
The afternoon concluded with delegates visiting the Stone and Wood Carving, and Conservation Studios.
Day Two – 27 May 2016
The morning session was chaired jointly by Sarah McDougall and Rachel Dickson.
Sarah McDougall is the Eva Frankfurther Research and Curatorial Fellow for the Study of Émigré Artists, and Head of Collections at Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London. She specialises in twentieth-century British art, particularly the contribution of émigré artists and artists of Jewish descent working in Britain c.1900-60.
Rachel Dickson is Head of Curatorial Services at Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London (Art, Identity and Migration). She is jointly responsible for exhibition programming, curation and publications with Sarah MacDougall, and has a research specialism in the two waves of Jewish émigré artists who arrived in Britain at the end of the nineteenth/early twentieth and the mid-twentieth centuries.
Benedict Read, the Conference Chair, gave the keynote paper on the second day (fig.6). After working in the Conway and Witt Libraries at the Courtauld Institute, Read became Director of Sculpture Studies at the School of Fine Art at Leeds University in 1990 and since his retirement has been Senior Visiting Research Fellow there. His publications include Victorian Sculpture (1982) and Sculpture in Britain Between the Wars (1986). He was first Chairman of the PMSA and Chair of the Editorial Board of the Sculpture Journal.
Read’s paper entitled, ‘Lest We Forget – a Brief Sample of Many Others’, was a highly informative roll call of some of the significant émigré sculptors from the period c. 1850-1950, who were either not mentioned in the other papers of the day or only given a cursory nod. Amongst those he discussed in relation to their contribution to British sculpture of the period were Raffaele Monti, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, Édouard Lantéri, Arthur Fleischmann, Uli Nimptsch and Karel Vogel.
This was followed by Dr Robert Burstow, Reader in History and Theory of Art at the University of Derby, whose paper, ‘Institutional patronage of émigré sculptors from Central and Eastern Europe in post-war “New Britain”’ discussed how a generation of sculptors, including Siegfried Charoux, Arthur Fleischmann and Wili Soukop, were championed by the Festival of Britain and given prominent public art commissions (fig.7). Burstow explained that the London County Council played an important role in commissioning public art with artists such as Peter Peri, creating innovative art schemes for new council estates in the 1950s. He also revealed that seven sculptors from Central or Eastern Europe – Belsky, Charoux, Ehrlich, Henghes, Nimptsch, Soukop and Vogel – were responsible for at least a quarter of more than fifty sculptures acquired through the London County Council’s ‘Patronage of the Arts’ scheme between 1956 and 1964, for siting in schools, colleges, care-homes, highways, parks, open spaces, and elsewhere.
Sarah MacDougall then gave her paper, ‘“Talent[s] of many possibilities and of great vitality”: Fred Kormis (1894-1986) and Willi Soukop (1907-1995) – two émigré sculptors in England’. MacDougall not only examined the reception of these two Jewish émigré artists and their contribution to British public art, but also their links to organisations such as the Free German League of Culture and the Artists International Association. She discussed their position in relation to the wider émigré network and talked about Soukop’s idyllic period at Dartington with Mark Tobey, Bernard Leach and Cecil Collins. By contrast, she described how Kormis’ life was haunted by fear and despair and how devastated he was, when his Tannenberg memorial was destroyed, after the authorities discovered he was Jewish.
A fascinating and largely spontaneous conversation then took place between Dr. Sarah Crellin, a freelance scholar of twentieth-century British figurative sculpture, who has published on Francis Derwent Wood and Charles Wheeler, and John Mills PPRBS ARCA FRSA, the sculptor, printmaker, teacher and writer on sculpture practice. The conversation focused on the latter’s ‘Encounters with Émigrés’ and Mills recounted how in the late 1950s, he had come into contact with three Jewish émigrés, Wili Soukop, Astrid Zydower, who had come to England via Kindertransport, and the German potter, Hans Coper. The complex nexus between émigrés and their British colleagues was discussed, with particular reference to the Royal College of Art and Digswell Arts Trust. Mills vividly recalled how Hans Coper was driven by ‘sculptural ambition’ and wanted ‘to make objects not cups and saucers’, but that his studio was always temporary and could be packed up at a moment’s notice, because he lived in fear of being found by the German authorities.
Rachel Dickson’s paper, ‘“I hear only what my eyes tell me” Elsa Fraenkel (1892-1975) and Erna Nonnenmacher (1889-1980) – Two Jewish Women Sculptors in Exile’, studied the difficulties these German women faced as they forged new careers in Britain. Elsa Fraenkel had been part of Kurt Schwitters’ circle in Hanover early in her career, and Erna Nonnenmacher graduated in ceramics from Berlin’s prestigious Reimann Schule. Nonnenmacher was initially interned on the Isle of Man, when she arrived in Britain, and Dickson revealed how the two faced complex issues as exiled women artists and, as they sought to re-establish their professional careers, both exhibited with the Ben Uri Art Society.
Dickson’s paper was brought to life by the fact that Elsa Fraenkel’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter attended the conference and were able to make interesting contributions to the pursuant discussion (fig.11). Her daughter-in-law explained that Fraenkel struggled in the competitive art world and that ‘She was frail, but her sculpture was strong.’
Next, Dr. Jonathan Black, Senior Research Fellow in History of Art at Kingston University, gave his paper ‘Embracing Britannia: The Concept of ‘Britishness’ in the Public Sculpture and Career of Dora Gordine (1895-1991)’. Black discussed the fascinating life of Russo-Latvian-Jewish sculptor, Gordine, giving us an insight into her quixotic and highly original personality. She supplied at least eight different birth dates over her lifetime and, from the 1920s onwards, she moved in the artistic circles of Paris and London, which included figures such as André Breton and Virginia Woolf. Black gave an account of Gordine’s richly idiosyncratic public sculpture, and explained that she only progressed so far in her career, but was never truly accepted by the Establishment.
The morning session was concluded by Aurelia Young, daughter of the Croatian sculptor, Oscar Nemon, who is writing book about her enigmatic father. Her paper, ‘“Not One of Us?” Oscar Nemon 1906-1985’ traced his story from his arrival in England in the 1930s with no English. He did have good contacts however, such as Sigmund Freud, who recounted that ‘a Slavic Jew’ had created ‘an astonishing lifelike impression of me.’ According to Young, Nemon’s breakthrough came when he and Winston Churchill met in Marrakesh in 1950. The Queen commissioned him to make a bust of Winston Churchill for Windsor Castle in 1952, but the Royal Academy rejected it for their 1953 Exhibition, which was the first of many rejections by the Establishment. Young’s vivid recollections of a childhood, throwing pellets of clay into her father’s hair, culminated in an account of the sculptor’s sittings with Sir Winston Churchill, and how his wife Clementine was moved to comment ‘You have represented my husband just as I see him’.
The afternoon session was chaired by Dr. Michael Paraskos FRSA, son of the Cypriot artist, Stass Paraskos, he is organiser of the largest annual conference on medieval and renaissance studies in the Mediterranean region, and teaches art-history at City and Guilds of London Art School, Morley College and Imperial College London.
The first paper of the afternoon, ‘Avant-garde meets the “primitive” in New Barnet: Émigré and Immigrant sculptors at The Abbey, 1947-55’, was given by Dr Simon Pierse, senior lecturer at Aberystwyth University and author of Australian Art and Artists in London, 1950-1965 (2012) (fig.12). Pierse gave an interesting account of The Abbey, a large North London house, which was transformed into an artists’ colony by William Ohly, director of Berkeley Galleries and dealer in, and collector of, ethnographic art. He explained that The Abbey became a hub of émigré and expatriate artists, was significant as a place of transnational cultural exchange and stimulated interest in the ‘primitive’ amongst its resident sculptors. He also noted the part it played in the careers of Robert Klippel and German-born, Inge King, Australia’s two most prominent sculptors.
Professor Fran Lloyd, Professor of Art History and Director of The Visual and Material Culture Research Centre in the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture at Kingston University, London, has published widely on modern and contemporary sculpture and émigré artists in Britain, followed with a paper on ‘“The Face of Our Time?” The 1960s and early 1970s sculpture of Ernst Eisenmayer’ (fig.13). She discussed the sculptor’s diverse work, which is distinctive within the context of post-war British sculpture dominated by Henry Moore and the ‘Geometry of Fear’, and reflected on the way Eisenmayer drew on his experiences of war, forced separation as a refugee and the power of creativity to produce significant works that also embodied a utopian belief in building a better future. She described a life of extremes – six months in Dachau juxtaposed with the peace of Camberwell School of Art, and Eisenmayer’s continual fascination with the material qualities of metal, bronze and hard stones and the processes and technical challenges of large and small-scale public and private sculpture.
Roger Clarke, Senior Lecturer and MA Fine Art Course Director at Bath School of Art and Design, then spoke about the sculptor, Paul Neagu. He related his own experiences with Neagu, who had been his teacher at the Slade in the 1980s. Clarke described Neagu’s experiences with Richard Demarco and Joseph Beuys at the Edinburgh Art Festival, and showed his work Hyphen at MOMA, Oxford in 1970. He looked at Neagu’s public art too, but explained the sculptor’s career was grounded in performance art, for example, Cake-Man (1971) at the Sigi Krauss Gallery, London, where notoriously he would be covered in waffles and honey and blindfold his audience! Clarke also described Neagu’s strong legacy for students, such as Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, who appreciated his hands on approach.
Professor Lynda Morris, Professor of Curation and Art History at NUA spoke next, her paper described her interviews with members of the Artists International Association (AIA) 1939-45 in East Berlin in 1985: Sculptors Theo Balden, Eric Bischof, Heinz Worner and Elizabeth Shaw on Rene Graetz. These conversations offered fascinating recollections, ranging from Baldon on Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer at the Bauhaus, to Worner, who recalled hearing Kurt Schwitters reciting poetry with no socks on!
Dr Peter Cannon-Brookes was Keeper of the Department of Art, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham and of the National Museum of Wales. His publications include the authoritative survey, Czech Sculpture 1800-1938. His paper on ‘Franta Belsky, Irena Sedlecka and the Czech Contribution to the Revitalization of the Society of Portrait Sculptors’ explained how Belsky fled the Czechoslovakian Communist regime in 1948 and continued his career in figurative and abstract sculpture in the UK. His second wife, the sculptor Irena Sedlecka, has had a varied career here, but as Cannon-Brookes pointed out, has remained true to the intellectual disciplines of Czech sculpture. Their partnership was a crucial factor in the revival of the Society of Portrait Sculptors, with Belsky an active President.
The next paper, ‘Constructing Bridges: the Work of Armando Varela’ was given by Professor Valerie Fraser, Professor Emerita at the University of Essex, who specialises in the art and architecture of Latin America (fig.14). Fraser talked about London-based Peruvian born Varela’s early training in Lima and Paris, followed by his experiences at St Martins, London, in the early 1970s. She explained how Antony Caro took a personal interest in him and instructed him in welding. Varela later taught in the metalwork department at St. Martins until his retirement. Asserting that Varela, who attended the conference, ‘was a born sculptor’ she explained that his central preoccupation has always been big, bold, abstract sculpture,Fraser of a type that invites the viewer to move around and experience it spatially as well as visually. Although it is possible to identify similarities with other sculptors in Latin America, such as Eduardo Negret in Colombia or Lygia Clark in Brazil, as well as with the work of Caro and other British contemporaries, Varela’s work has its own distinctive strength and infectious energy.
The day and conference concluded with Ellen King, who studied at City and Guilds of London Art School. Her paper, ‘Enquiries into the Inbetween: British cultural artefacts in the work of Susan Hiller’, examined the American artist’s use of aspects of British popular culture, such as seaside postcards, Punch and Judy shows and Victorian memorials to civilian heroes, to create what she calls an ‘undecideable’ space between the familiar and the foreign. King further expanded on the link between these aspects of British popular culture and Hillier’s changing relationship with the British art world and their ‘fixed’ idea of the definition of sculpture.
Main Image: Aurelia Young – Slide: Oscar Nemon with his Bust of Churchill and Churchill’s Bust of Nemon (Churchill’s only work of sculpture) (photo: Leonie Summers)
PMSA and 3rd Dimension 2016 Conference Academic Committee
Chair: Benedict Read FSA (University of Leeds, PMSA Deputy Chairman)
Joanna Barnes (PMSA trustee and 3rd Dimension editor)
Katharine Eustace FSA (PMSA trustee and former editor of the Sculpture Journal)
Thomas Groves (City and Guilds of London Art School)
Dr Michael Paraskos FRSA (SOAS University of London)
Leonie Summers (3rd Dimension)