Millicent Fawcett (1)

Given the amount of interest at the moment in public statuary, I took the opportunity yesterday to walk across Parliament Square, which is in some ways the nation’s Valhalla, although a gloomy one, normally little seen because it is treated as a traffic roundabout. The most recent addition is Millicent Fawcett, unveiled in 2018, done by Gillian Wearing. I thought it was effective, more so than many recent statues, and was interested to find, which I had assumed, that it was modelled using the latest 3D scanning system, based presumably on original photographs. It demonstrates that it is still possible to produce convincing contemporary monuments, worth looking at as a model as the demand grows for new ones as replacements for those which are removed:-


6 thoughts on “Millicent Fawcett (1)

  1. Piers Bedford says:

    i am being very honest in saying that i had never heard of this lady.
    In researching her and trying to see the full statue in situ i found a hundred or so Victorian photographs of her before i found just one of the memorial.
    How interesting that it was 3D modelled but i wonder if as a result it lacked “soul” ?
    Was my aesthetic judgement of it tempered by knowledge of its creation automatically, by machine ?
    i dont know my answer to that yet..
    Given that my ignorance of her might not be untypical i was surprised at the lack of dates underneath and i always like a word added that summarizes their achievement.
    Of course we long to stand with Bernini and look at this , a computer generated sculpture, and witness his reaction and amazement . I somehow think he would have questioned, as i did, the validity of adding photographs of her on the plinth when maybe a sculpture should obviate the necessity for another rather tacky form of representation adjacent.
    We are back in the Victorian era looking at Daguerreotypes suggesting “painting is dead” . At least with photographs there was still one “author”.
    Where does 3D modelled sculpture fit in ?

  2. Emma Lavender says:

    It is heartening to read that you have visited Parliament Square and take an ongoing interest in public sculpture.
    Three dimensional digital scanning has its uses: the technology can powerfully facilitate the sculpture process, but it cannot generate sculpture. You will appreciate the distinction: representation of the human form is not mimetic, but requires a process of active and rigorous interpretation by the human mind. Representation is interpretative, not mimetic.
    This is what ‘modelling’ means – tens of thousands of interpretative decisions that build up a form – in this case figurative – by an individual artist. Modelling means anatomy, drapery, props etc can be adapted to marry with formal compositional elements, the overall rhythms of a piece and all the other manifold subliminal ways in which a human being creates meaning out of sheer materiality. This is the difference between public sculpture and Madame Tussauds.
    Contrasting the scanned drapery of the Millicent Fawcett with the modelled drapery of Charles Seargent Jagger’s Royal Artillery Memorial makes the point clear. You would find Martin Jennings’ lecture at the National Portrait Gallery on public statues more helpful than I can be here. It is available on Youtube.
    This is the link:
    It may also be of interest to you to know that Gillian Wearing, having won the commission to represent the first woman in Parliament Square, was also the first woman artist to make a sculpture in Parliament Square. Wearing then subcontracted the making of the portrait head and all other modelled aspects to a male sculptor who has remained wholly uncredited for his work. All publicity has implied that Wearing executed the work herself.
    I find this work wholly unacceptable on multiple counts: it is poorly commissioned, conceived, modelled and executed, in addition to its dishonesty. It betrays the very principles it purports to embody.
    All best wishes, Emma Lavender

  3. Jean Walker says:

    For anyone who doesn’t know a great deal about some of the other women who changed history at around the same time, for example Eileen Power, I can recommend a new book, Square Haunting, by Rebecca Ward.

  4. Charles it would be very interesting to have your response to Emma Lavender’s reply and to know why you believe the Fawcett sculpture to be “effective”. She’s put a very clear case for why it isn’t but I’d be interested in your response.

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