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Newton (After William Blake) by Eduardo Paolozzi at the British Library

Newton After Blake

Located outside the incredible British Library in London is the impressive sculpture titled ‘Newton’ After William Blake, crafted by Eduardo Paolozzi.

Eduardo Paolozzi
Eduardo Paolozzi Courtesy BBC Radio

Paolozzi was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, to Italian immigrants on March 7, 1924. Growing up, Paolozzi’s father was an admirer of Benito Mussolini and sent his son to youth camps in Italy for several years.

When Italy declared war on the United Kingdom in June 1940, young Eduardo, his father, and grandfather were all imprisoned under the Emergency Powers Act. Eduardo spent three months in Saughton Prison. His father and grandfather were put aboard the Arandora Star and were to be transported to Canada for detention.

The Arandora Star was constructed in 1925 and had served as a cruise ship based out of Southampton before being pressed into military duty. In June 1940, she left Liverpool with a passenger list including 174 officers and men, 200 military guards, 734 interned Italian men, 479 interned German men, and 86 German prisoners of war, destined for Newfoundland.

Early on the morning of July 2, she was struck by a torpedo launched by a German submarine, U-47. Eight hundred and five passengers lost their lives in the attack, the majority drowning. Among the dead were young Eduardo’s father and grandfather.

Upon his release, Eduardo attended classes at Edinburgh College of Art before being drafted in 1943. He spent more than a year in the Pioneer Corps before being released from service. He then began attending the Slade School.

Here the young artist was developing his talents and style. In 1947 he was given his first solo exhibition at the Mayor Gallery, where all his work sold. He was to then spend time in Paris before returning to London. In Paris he had come to learn of Dada and Surrealism and began to experiment with collage.

During the 1950s, Paolozzi began to produce architecturally based works. He also began to experiment with printmaking. His interest in collage continued however and as Frank Whitford wrote for the Guardian, “Everything he created began as an accumulation of unrelated images culled from a wide variety of sources which, when rearranged, achieved a new and surprising unity.”

In the 1960s his sculpture began to further incorporate his interest in collage. As Whitford writes of Paolozzi, “…regularly visited the dry docks, collecting discarded components from the wrecking yards. He used these, together with standard engineering parts ordered from catalogues, to create sculptures which simultaneously suggested curios machines and totems from some lost but technologically advanced culture.”

After a period of creative doldrums, Paolozzi moved to West Berlin in 1974. In Berlin he regained his creative energies producing abstract prints. He would later serve as a professor at the Colgone Fachhochschule and later served at the Munich Academy.

With his creativity at a high level. Paolozzi was awarded multiple public commissions in both Germany and Britain. During the long construction of the British Library, architect Sir Colin St. John Wilson commissioned Paolozzi to produce a sculpture to grace the piazza outside the library. The result: ‘Newton’ After William Blake.

William Blake's Newton
William Blake’s painting of Newton, an inspiration for Paolozzi’s sculpture. Courtesy Tate Britain

The British Library describes Blake’s painting, “Blake’s original watercolor shows Newton surrounded by the glories of nature but oblivious to it all. Instead, he is focused on reducing the complexity of the universe to mathematical dimensions, bending forward with his compass.”

Installed in 1995, the sculpture is a bronze measuring twelve feet tall. Casting of this work was done by the Morris Singer Foundry. Singer was established in 1848 and has cast many well-known sculptures, including the Trafalgar Square Lions.

 

 

Newton After Blake
Newton After Blake located outside the British Library
Newton After Blake
Newton After Blake from the side
Sir Colin St. John Wilson
Sir Colin St. John Wilson
Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts

In discussing his work, Paolozzi said, “While Blake may have been satirizing Newton, I see this work as an exciting union of two British geniuses. Together, they present to us nature and science, poetry, art, architecture-all welded, interconnected, interdependent.”

 

This interconnection between is shown in the physical sculpture itself. The body of Newton is shown in a seemingly mechanical way. Newton is held together with bolts in the major joints.

To hear more about this sculpture from the architect Sir Colin St. John Wilson click here. This interview excerpt is about two minutes long.

A model of the sculpture was given to the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences. A bronze cast of Newton is in the collection of the Tate Gallery. A similar sculpture is held at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

As he grew older, Paolozzi began to consider his legacy. He undertook a philanthropic role, donating prints to museums in Britain and other countries. His largest donation was to the National Galleries of Scotland which houses a studio with his name.

Paolozzi suffered a stroke in 2001 and passed away in April 2005.

You may examine the life of artist Eduardo Paolozzi in more detail in this work by art historian Judith Collins. Eduardo Paolozzi  chronicles the development of European art from the 1950s through the late 1990s. At over 300 pages and heavily illustrated this is a must for anyone interested in learning about this amazing artist.

 

 

 

To learn more about the architect of the British Library, Sir Colin St. John Wilson, I recommend the book Buildings & Projects, written by Roger Stonehouse. Wilson himself penned several titles which can be seen here.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

 

 

Sources

British Library. Isaac Newton Sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi.                                                                                            https://www.bl.uk/about-us/our-story/explore-the-building/isaac-newton-sculpture

Guggenheim Museum. Eduardo Paolozzi.                                                                          https://www,guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/eduardo-paolozzi

Whitford, Frank. Sir Eduardo Paolozzi obituary.                                                   htps://www.theguardian.com/culture/2005/apr/22/obituaries

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Young Dancer Sculpture by Enzo Plazzotta in London

One of the joys of London is just walking around with open eyes. There is so much to see. It may be the Blue Plaques on buildings, it may be a small marker on a structure, or maybe you will find a war memorial that most just walk by. Or perhaps like we recently did, you will come across a unique piece of art.

Enzo Plazzotta
Image courtesy Chris Beetle Gallery

We had visited London several years ago and stumbled by Bow Wow London, a unique pet store that allowed us the chance to shop for our dogs. The owners were so nice to us we knew we had to make a return visit on our next trip to the city. After stopping in and purchasing a truly unique collar for our dog, we were walking around in Covent Garden when we crossed paths with an incredible sculpture; Young Dancer, created by the Italian artist Enzo Plazzotto.

Enzo Plazzotto was born in Mestre, Italy on May 29, 1921. Plazzotto studied sculpture

Giacomo Manzu
Image courtesy https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41319874

and architecture at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, under the guidance of Giacomo Manzu.

Unfortunately, World War II interrupted Plazzotto’s studies. During the war, he became a Partisan leader near Lago Maggiore. Once hostilities ended, Enzo returned to school where he was to receive a commission from the Italian Committee of Liberation. After he presented his work to the recipient in London, he took up residence in the city.

While portrait sculpture paid the bills, Plazzotto was more interested in movement; a theme he was able to highlight in subjects such as horses and dancers. The Chris Beetles Gallery describes Plazzotto’s work, “Through his studies and adaptations of mythology and classical Christian themes he was able to convey great power and emotion encompassing the frequent vain striving of mankind.”

Plazzotto was to live only sixty years, passing away on October 12, 1981. Six and a half years after his death, the Westminster City Council and the Plazzotta estate unveiled Young Dancer on May 16, 1988. The beautiful bronze sculpture shows a young, female dancer, seated on a stool. Her right leg bent slightly at the knee, points to the ground with her toe just touching. Her left leg is across the right with her hands resting on it. The dancer has a calm look and appears to be resting. If you, or a member of your family study ballet or other forms of dance, this sculpture will make you smile. 

Young Dancer, a bronze sculpture in Westminster London

Behind the Young Dancer is a row of iconic red telephone booths bringing you back to the reality that you are in a large city.

Young Dancer is located on Broad Street just off of Bow Street, opposite the Royal Opera House in the Covent Garden district.

Young Dancer with Iconic Phone Booths in Background

 

The Estate and Copyright of Enzo Plazzotta is exclusively owned by the Chris Beetles Gallery. For sales and enquires please contact the Gallery.

 

 

If you are in London be sure to keep your eyes open for the many blue plaques that adorn buildings denoting a famous person had something to do with the building. Take a look at my blog post that reviews a book highlighting more than 400 blue plaques.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

Identifying plaque on Young Dancer sculpture

To learn more about the incredible art of Enzo Plazzotta, I recommend his catalogue raisonne, a work of nearly 200 pages that will make you an expert on the artist.

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Book Review: London’s Blue Plaques 2nd Edition

Spencer, Howard, editor. The English Heritage Guide to London’s Blue Plaques, 2nd edition, revised, and
updated. Tewkesbury: September Publishing, 2019. ISBN 9781912836055, 528 pages, index, photos,
maps. $25.95 or £17.99.

 

Walk around London for even a few minutes and you cannot help but see a blue plaque attached to a building. These plaques are associated with London just as red double-decker buses, black cabs, Big Ben, and the Royal family. So just what are these and why are they there?

These plaques help commemorate not just individuals but the places that are associated with these persons. Curated by English Heritage, this program has been in existence since 1867. English Heritage is now the fourth organization to manage the program, following up on work carried out by the (Royal) Society of the Arts, the London County Council, and the Greater London Council. English Heritage took over management in 1986 and is now responsible for well over 900 plaques.

 

Plaque nominations are provided by the public (the criteria are on the English Heritage website) and go
through a vetting process. Traditionally, the person is the most important part of the selection process.
One of the most important selection criteria is the person must have “made a positive contribution to
human welfare and happiness.” (Page 8) However, some additional guidelines must be followed in order
for a plaque to be awarded.

In order to be recognized, a person must have been dead for twenty years. This allows the selection
committee to judge the impact and enduring legacy of the candidate. A second rule is that the person
may only have one plaque. This rule is more stringently enforced than in the past. Spencer notes that
William Makepeace Thackeray has three blue plaques. A building where a plaque is being proposed may
have no more than two plaques in place. This often rules out buildings such as churches, theatres, and
schools. In fact, there are currently only eighteen structures with more than one plaque.

The London Blue Plaque program helps bring together a person, a place, and a story. As such, you
cannot just nominate a person, there needs to be a structure standing that the commemorated person
would recognize. This means the building must be period appropriate. As Spencer interprets this, “the
thought being that once the original bricks and mortar have gone, so has the meaningful connection
between person and place.” (Page 9) If an imaginary plaque was placed at 1050 Blackstoneberry for Stan
Ridgeway, and the imaginary building was to burn down, a replacement plaque would not be issued to any new
structure built there. The newly constructed building and Ridgeway would have no association.

For the keen observer, you will note that not all plaques are the same. Some are not round and several
are not even blue. The key as to whether a plaque is part of this initiative is to pay attention to the
sponsoring organization. Other plaque sponsoring groups you might see throughout England include the
Westminster City Council Green Plaque, Nubian Jak Community Trust, Ealing Civic Society, and others.

Book editor Howard Spencer is correct to point out the value of this program in addition to name and
place remembrance. This program helps reflect the shifting perceptions of what is historically significant
and what society values and thinks is worthy of memory. History is an evolving field of study and this program is a prime example of this evolution. He points out that currently only fourteen  percent of plaques recognize women and less than five percent honor minorities. While continued efforts are needed on these fronts, Spencer states that these imbalances are being addressed and a wider diversity of people are being publicly commemorated.

Freddie Mercury Blue Plaque located at 22 Gladstone Avenue Feltham, London Burough of Hounslow Photo courtesy English Heritage

A book such as this has value but maybe not so much as a travel or tour guide. For most people, there are more user-friendly ways to learn about these plaques. English Heritage has an excellent search feature on their website allowing you to search by name, keyword, category, or borough. An example; for those interested in rock music, you can find plaques for Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon; certainly three of the biggest names in the field.

As a travel tool, I would recommend downloading the official app from your preferred app store. The app will allow you to find all plaques that are near you, search all blue plaques, or take guided tours. When I open the app today, there are two tours listed, Literary Kensington and Soho, Creatives, and Visionaries. Both take you to twelve stops and range from 45 minutes to an hour and a half estimated.

 

All those positives of other options aside, I still have a place on my shelves for this book. One being, I don’t live in London and don’t have the ability to regularly visit. This book gives me a “fix” so to speak. The reality is, most of us will know very few of the names on these plaques. The plaques themselves provide very little information, think “George Washington Slept Here.” Spencer provides a bit more background on each individual allowing readers to determine if they wish to learn more. Most receive about half a page of text. Unfortunately, the majority do not have a photo of their plaque included. This is no doubt a cost issue as including 900+ photos would become prohibitively expensive and the book would balloon from an already large 528 pages to nearly double the size.

For casual readers such as myself, the book is divided geographically into 36 chapters. Each chapter
contains a small-undetailed map. Numbers on the map correspond to listings in the chapter helping you
somewhat orient yourself but street names are not included. Tube stops and names are shown.

The book appears to be solidly constructed and the paper is good quality. Should you wish to throw this
in your backpack while walking the city it doesn’t take too much room but it does weigh a couple of
pounds.

At around $20-$25 US, I have no problem recommending this title. It is a great addition to any armchair
traveler’s library.

If you are in the Covent Garden area of London be sure to find the Young Dancer sculpture. Learn about this great piece of public art in my blog post. 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may
receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views
and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors
providing products.