Harlow: ‘Sculpture Town’

Municipal Dreams

Last week’s post looked at the ideals which generated Harlow New Town’s unique programme of public art works and its early years.  Frederick Gibberd, Harlow’s architect-planner, had envisaged its civic centre as ‘home to the finest works of art’ both a homage to the past and its Renaissance glories and a mark of the cultured urbanism aspired to in England’s new Elizabethan age.

This is a record of my visit last year, an eclectic mix therefore, rather than a comprehensive record  a sympathetic attempt to see and understand the works in situ and in the context of the mission Gibberd proclaimed.

By the early sixties, Harlow town centre – Gibberd’s broadly conceived civic centre – was taking off. FE McWilliam’s Portrait Figure­, stands in West Walk, bought by the Harlow Art Trust in 1957 after featuring in the London County Council’s open-air sculpture exhibition that year. It’s a portrayal…

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7 Remarkable Survivals from the Festival of Britain

Heritage Calling

The 1951 Festival of Britain showcased achievements in science, technology, industry, architecture and the arts in venues across the country. Much of what was built for the Festival was dismantled at the end – but there are some remarkable remnants.

As well as personal memories and mementos passed through families, the Festival survives in a number of intriguing and unexpected places.

Reg & Joan Reg and Joy Bond, who had come to the festival from New Malden, Surrey. Image kindly supplied by their granddaughter, Becky.

Here we take a look at 8 examples:

1. Susan Lawrence and Elizabeth Lansbury Schools, London Grade II listed

DP059472 Lansbury and Lawrence Schools, Tower Hamlets, JOD, nd (This and feature image) Decorative tiles in the school hall at Lansbury Lawrence School,Poplar, London. © Historic England Archive DP059472 | DP059474

Part of the Festival of Britain was a ‘Live Architecture’ exhibition in the Stepney / Poplar area of London. Nearly a quarter of buildings in the area…

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Visit to the University of Salford Art Collection

I recently spent some time in the store of the University of Salford Art Collection, which has been acquiring contemporary art since the university’s inauguration in the late-1960s, and finding out about its history and future plans from curator and assistant curator Lindsay Taylor and Steph Fletcher.

To read my interview visit http://theshriekingviolets.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/an-education-through-art-university-of.html.


Harlow New Town: ‘Home to the finest works of art’

Municipal Dreams

There aren’t too many people perhaps who would compare Harlow to Florence, or at least not favourably, but withhold the cynicism because the Italian city did inspire an important part of the New Town’s founding vision. Frederick Gibberd, Harlow’s architect-planner, believed that the ‘Civic Centre should be home to the finest works of art, as it is in Florence and other splendid cities’.  Later, his book Town Design set out his vision of the ‘kind of environment he hoped to achieve, one in which the creative arts were to be valued and given an important role in the community’. (1)

SN Gibberd bust Gerda Rubinstein, Portrait bust – Sir Frederick Gibberd (1979) in the Gibberd Gallery, Harlow Civic Centre

What follows is a roughly chronological run-through of some of the sculptures and art works dotted around Harlow which aimed to fulfil the ideals of Gibberd and those who supported him. It’s not a…

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‘It’s the people who matter’: The Post-War Public Art of Peter Laszlo Peri

An artist who showed at Pictures for Schools.

Heritage Calling

Peter Laszlo Peri, the émigré artist, lived a most extraordinary life. By his death in 1967, he had left an innovative body of work that was characterised by the social awareness of his life and the spirit of the post-war years.

Peri’s most famous work, The Sunbathers, created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 was thought to be lost, but last year it was miraculously discovered in a hotel garden in London.  We’re crowdfunding to secure its restoration and return to public display – find out more here.

The Festival of Britain - London - 1951 Peter Laszlo Peri’s sculpture The Sunbathers on the north wall of Station Gate at the Festival of Britain, 17 May 1951. Image credit PA Images

Lead image: Peter Peri working outdoors with some of his sculptures around him
watched by onlookers over the garden gate, Tate Archive ©Tate, London 2017.

Early Life

Peri was born in Budapest, Hungary in…

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Sale of the Cambridgeshire Collection of Original Artworks for Schools

I was recently contacted by Cheffins Fine Art of Cambridge with the news that they are handling the sale of the Cambridgeshire local authority collection, which includes 400 pictures by artists including Malvina Cheek, Robert Tavener and Tirzah Garwood.

The collection was established in 1947 – the year the first Pictures for Schools exhibition took place – under the aegis of Pictures for Schools Chairman Nan Youngman, who worked for Director of Education Henry Morris as the county’s art adviser from 1944 to 1954.

Although not entirely unexpected – since I started my PhD I’ve had a lot of difficulty finding out about the location and status of the collection, and I understand that individual works from it have been sold previously – it’s sad if it’s true that not enough schools in Cambridgeshire are interested in making use of the service, especially as Derbyshire School Library and Museum Service is still lending pictures to schools and has been reaching out of late via a social media presence.

Read more about the rationale behind the sale in this Cambs Times article from August 2015.


The Manchester Modernist Society are proud to presents an exhibition of Galt toys, games, puzzles, catalogues and books. At the Manchester Central Library Commencing Tuesday 4th April running until Wednesday 31st May 2017 St Peters Square, City Centre, M2 5PD Monday: 9am-8pm Tuesday: 9am-8pm Wednesday: 9am-8pm Thursday: 9am-8pm Friday: 9am-5pm Saturday: 9am-5pm Sunday: closed Entrance […]

via Galt Toys Exhibition —