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With the launch of our sculpture project in February 2019, the nation discovered that rather surprisingly there is a Rodin sculpture outside of Nando's in Harlow, Essex.

However, this 'New Town' doesn't just have sculptures of women, but some brilliant sculptural work by women. From Barbara Hepworth to Elisabeth Frink, there is an abundance of sculptural works in Harlow by female artists. 

Move aside The Only Way Is Essex – it's time to give the county a cultural rebrand as one of UK's hotspots for sculpture.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975) is one of the most important sculptors of modern times, known for her tactile, curvilinear, enigmatic sculptural forms.

Contrapuntal Forms

Contrapuntal Forms

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

Glebelands, Harlow, Essex

Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, she won scholarships to Leeds School of Art, and later the Royal College of Art. Henry Moore was among her fellow students at both places and became a lifelong friend. In the 1920s, she emerged as a leading member of a new generation of sculptors, often carving sculpture from wood, and later bronze. From 1939, Hepworth lived in St Ives in Cornwall with her husband (fellow artist Ben Nicholson) and their triplets (two of whom also became artists). Today you can find the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St Ives, and a museum dedicated to her in West Yorkshire, The Hepworth Wakefield.

Betty Rea

Kore

Kore

Betty Rea (1904–1965)

High Steet, Old Harlow, Essex

Kore by Betty Rea (1904–1965) was purchased in 1975 in celebration of the European Council Architectural Heritage Award for Old Harlow. It was unveiled by Sir Thomas Monnington, the then-President of the Royal Academy.

Like Barbara Hepworth, Rea was also friends with Henry Moore, whom she had met at the Royal College of Art in the 1920s. Apart from being an artist, Rea was heavily involved in left-wing politics in the 1930s, becoming secretary of the Artists' International Association, which opposed fascism through art.

Mary Spencer Watson

Relatively unknown during her lifetime, the Dorset-based sculptor Mary Spencer Watson (1913–2006) was amazingly still carving sculpture in her 90s. A student of the Royal Academy, she studied under John Skeaping, an artist who was Barbara Hepworth's first husband. Watson's sculpture drew inspiration from medieval churches and cathedrals, and she often used local stone, such as Purbeck. 

Mary's father was the artist George Spencer Watson. Her mother was a dancer called Hilda, portrayed here alongside their family dog 'Maggie'.

Chiron

Chiron

Mary Spencer Watson (1913–2006)

The Stow, Harlow, Essex
 

Chiron was commissioned to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 and afterwards vested in the Harlow Art Trust. Moot House where the sculpture is located was the headquarters of Harlow's first community association for Mark Hall and Netteswell.

Elisabeth Frink

Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930–1993) is one of Britain's most celebrated female modern sculptors – her work ranged from male figures and disembodied heads to horses, eagles and other animals. Her signature style was considered to be energetic and incredibly expressive. She is best known for her bronze outdoor sculpture, but also created drawings and prints.

Boar

Boar

Elisabeth Frink (1930–1993)

Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex
 

Boar was commissioned as a concrete sculpture in 1957 for Slacksbury Hatch. However, Harlow Art Trust was dissatisfied with the final work and initially withheld Frink's fee, insisting that the artist undertake a series of changes. The original concrete version suffered from vandalism and weathering and was recast in bronze in 1970. This new version, which is what you can see today, was sited at the Water Gardens in Harlow Town Centre in 1989.

Gerda Rubinstein

Artist Gerda Rubinstein (b.1931) was born in Berlin before moving to Amsterdam and eventually arriving in England in 1960. She was one of the first artists to be commissioned by Sir Frederick Gibberd – who led the redesign of Harlow into a 'New Town'.

Sir Frederick Gibberd

Sir Frederick Gibberd 1979

Gerda Rubinstein (b.1931)

Harlow Art Trust

She sculpted his bust in 1979.

Julia

Julia 1995

Gerda Rubinstein (b.1931)

Harlow Art Trust

This bronze, Julia, was cast from a ciment fondu. A car backed into it in 2011, after which it was repaired, and it was then the subject of an attempted theft in 2012. It was moved indoors for security, and is now inside Harlow Playhouse. A new resin version remains outside in Sewell Harris Close.

Julia

Julia

Gerda Rubinstein (b.1931)

Sewell Harris Close, Harlow, Essex

Rubinstein was presented with a 'Heart for Harlow Community Award' in recognition of her sculptural contributions to the town. 

Angela Godfrey

Angela Godfrey (b.1939) is an English sculptor and member of the Royal Society of Sculptors. She has strong ties to the town – for many years she was a Trustee of Harlow Art Trust, and she initiated the creation of Harlow's former Playhouse Gallery where she acted as a curator.

Grecian Urn: Two Vertical Forms

Grecian Urn: Two Vertical Forms

Angela Godfrey (b.1939)

The Fairway, Harlow, Essex
 

This sculpture is found in Keats House Health Centre, which is named after the poet John Keats, who trained as a doctor. His poem Ode on a Grecian Urn inspired this work – the text from two of his other poems is carved on the face of each form, intended to be viewed from the two surgeries on either side of the atrium.

The Flame

The Flame

Angela Godfrey (b.1939)

Muskham Road, Harlow, Essex
 

The sculpture Flame was commissioned by Brays Grove School on its closure and to mark 51 years of secondary education in Harlow. The words were chosen to celebrate the school's ethos.

Hebe Comerford

Bird

Bird 1983–1985

Hebe Comerford (b.1948)

Water Gardens, Harlow, Essex

The original of the bronze sculpture Bird by Hebe Comerford (b.1948) was created from welded mild steel. It was owned by Michael Chase, Director of the Minories Art Gallery, who joined the Harlow Art Trust in 1980. In 1983, Chase offered the steel version to the Trust and it was cast in bronze. It was installed in the Harlow Town Centre Water Gardens in 1985. Comerford's original steel sculpture currently stands by the pond in the Gibberd Garden.

Sally Doig

Wrestlers

Wrestlers 1957

Sally Doig (b.1932)

Harlow Art Trust
 

Previously sited at Harlow Sports Centre, Wrestlers by Sally Doig was commissioned when Doig was a student at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. The sculpture is now located at St John's Arts and Recreation Centre, Old Harlow.

Jane Ackroyd

Jane Ackroyd is an abstract and figurative sculptor who is a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors.

Cat

Cat 1983

Jane Ackroyd (b.1957)

Harlow Art Trust

Cat is one of her earlier works and is located in Harlow's Civic Centre. It is a composite of everyday objects welded together and was probably inspired by Picasso's animal sculptures.

Nicola Burrell

Nicola Burrell is a Colchester-based artist whose work largely centres around site-specific sculpture.

New Town

New Town

Nicola Burrell (b.1966)

Minton Lane, Harlow, Essex
 

This large-scale, very colourful sculpture entitled New Town represents the four main neighbourhood groups in Harlow with representations of buildings on top, including the Town Hall, which was demolished in 2001.

Clare Bigger

Clare Bigger is a figurative sculptor who works mostly with steel and is preoccupied with movement. Her subject matter is based on animals, gymnasts and dancers. Her interest in Taekwondo and sports is reflected in her depiction of movement in her works.

Energise

Energise

Clare Bigger (b.1967)

Second Avenue, Harlow, Essex

Energise was commissioned for the opening of Harlow's Leisure zone sports facility.

Madeline Allen

Butterfly

Butterfly

Madeline Allen (active 2009)

Newstead Way, Harlow, Essex

Madeline Allen, who lives in Harlow, won a competition with this steel butterfly design. She said, 'when Harlow New Town was built, the new pubs were named after butterflies. Butterflies regenerate themselves from something that seems quite ugly into beautiful creatures.'

The works from Harlow are some of the first to appear on Art UK. With thousands more to come in 2019 and 2020, there will be plenty more to discover – what treasures are hiding in your neighbourhood? 

Lydia Figes, Content Creator at Art UK

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