If you like 20th Century portrait sculpture...

March 28 2012

Image of If you like 20th Century portrait sculpture...

Picture: BBC

...watch this. It's a BBC Parliament recording of a lecture on Oscar Nemon, given by his daughter Lady Aurelia Young at the Houses of Parliament recently. Fascinating. Nemon is best known for his sculptures of Winston Churchill, but he did just about anyone who was famous in the 50s and 60s.

I was lucky enough to go round Nemon's studio just outside Oxford shortly after he died, and was amazed by what I saw. Nemon would start his sculptures sitting in front of his subject with just a small ball of clay on a stick. Using basic tools and his hands, he would create a small study from life which immediately captured both the likeness and character of his sitter. There was one of Harold Macmillan, still on its stick as if it had been made yesterday. It was astoundingly lifelike.

The studio was full of these little studies, as well as worked up models and casts. At the time, I was working for the late Tony Banks MP, who was then chairman of the House of Commons works of art committee. Thanks to the kindness of the Nemon family, I was able to organise the donation of a number of Nemon pieces, including the study of Macmillan, and a maquette of Churchill in Garter Robes. The first exhibition I ever curated was the display of these and other items at the House of Commons.

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