Sunday, July 9, 2017
It's Important to Look Up
Walking the streets of London is very much like touring a huge sculpture garden. Most of the city's buildings are adorned with artistic elements. On my last trip to London, I was determined to "look up" and admire as many of the flourishes and artistry as I could. What I didn't realize when I started photographing all these interesting things is all the fascinating things I'd learn about what I saw.
One of the first to catch my eye were these statues situated in a dome-like niche above the entrance to a building I later learned was called "Bush House". The building only dates back to 1923 but what impressed me the most was that the building was designed by an American architect and the two handsome statues were sculpted by Malvina Hoffman, a female, American artist who had moved to Paris to study with Rodin. The figures here represent British and American men holding the torch of friendship. An American connection that I didn't realize when I took the photo.
When I returned to London from my short trip to Paris, I took a taxi from St. Pancras station to my hotel. I spotted this row of caryatids and snapped a photo through the taxi window. I later learned that they line both sides of the St. Pancras New Church, a Greek revival style building situated on a very busy street. That splash of red below the statues has a sort of Asian look to it to me.
While wandering around the Temple area just north of Fleet Street, I saw this statue of Sir Thomas More located over the entrance to a beautifully decorated building. My research found that it was sculpted by George Sherrin to appear above the More Gate entrance to Lincoln's Inn, one of the four "Inns of Court" that house the British legal professions.
More who was once the Lord Chancellor of England stands overlooking the royal courts of justice. That seems appropriate for such a distinguished legal mind of his time.
Another statue I found embedded into the wall of a building was this one of Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer. He's tucked away on a side wall of the Royal Geographic Society's building. He appears standing in full Arctic gear from head to toe. You might recall that Shackleton was planning to cross Antartica but, his ship the Endeavor was crushed in the pack ice. He is remembered for his leadership in extracting his crew without losing a single man. This sculpture was created by Charles Sargeant Jagger.
It took a bit of digging to find out who this man atop a church steeple was. It turns out to be George I and he stands tall above St. George's Church which also happens to house the Museum of Comedy. (What an interesting combination of uses.)
He shares his esteemed place with a lion and a unicorn. The statue is humorously described by Horace Walpole in this rhyme:
When Henry VIII left the Pope in the lurch,
Protestants made him the head of the church.
But George's good subjects, the Bloomsbury people
Instead of the church, made him head of the steeple.
Oh, the wonderful things there are to learn when one travels and observes.
I have many more of these little historic oddities to share in future posts. It was just as much fun to research them as it was to see them in person.