Sculpture at the BSR

This week on our blog, we take a look at the work of two former BSR award-holders, and show how the creative practice recorded in the BSR Archives becomes the subject of contemporary research.

Alfred Hardiman in his studio at the BSR

Alfred Hardiman in his studio at the BSR.

Earlier this summer, Archivist Alessandra Giovenco received an email from former BSR resident, Valerie Holman, letting her know that an article based in large part on research carried out at the BSR had just been published in Sculpture Journal.

Valerie kindly took the time to tell us about her research:

‘In 1920, Alfred Hardiman (1891-1949), a mature student in art and former engineering draughtsman, became only the third recipient of the Rome Prize in Sculpture. He spent a very productive four years at the BSR, completing in clay a seven-foot figure of Peace, now cast in bronze and sited in the garden of St James’s Piccadilly, as well as many portrait busts of staff and fellow students, among them Winifred Knights. Knights’ paintings and drawings, including her portraits of Hardiman, are currently on show at Dulwich Art Gallery in London [the exhibition is now drawing to a close, having had a very successful run!].


Hardiman’s sculpture of his contemporary at the BSR, Winifred Knights.

Sculpture created in Italy made his reputation in the UK, and led to prestigious, large-scale commissions such as the four groups of figures that adorn London County Hall, and his equestrian statue of Earl Haig in Whitehall. A strong advocate of collective endeavour, he made lasting friendships at the BSR that extended into his professional life, collaborating with the award-winning architect, Stephen Rowland Pierce, on several public buildings during the 1930s.Nearly 100 years later, my brief time at the BSR was spent trawling through archives with the patient help of Alessandra Giovenco [BSR Archivist], or strolling through Rome to try and see the city as Hardiman did, pondering relationships between light and mass, scale and space, classical order and Baroque exuberance. It was an incomparable opportunity to understand what the Rome Scholarship in Sculpture must have meant to a man of modest means whose later work, though still extraordinarily little known, is now prominently sited in cities across the UK.’

This July we had a visit from a more recent former award-holder, Michael Rhodes, who came back to visit the BSR for the first time in over 30 years. Michael recalled his envy when a close friend was awarded the Rome Prize in Sculpture at the BSR – only to shortly afterwards himself be awarded the Gulbenkian Scholarship in Sculpture.

From a working class background, Michael remembers his preconceptions about coming to the BSR, fearing his fellow award-holders would all be ‘condescending’. In reality, his two years – residencies were often much longer at that time – at the BSR were filled with intellectual stimulation, travel…and romance. The BSR is doubly special for Michael as his wedding was held here (with the organisational help of the legendary Anna Fazzari), his wife-to-be having worked in the archaeology department during his residency.

Having lived in Berlin for a large part of his working life as a sculptor (‘Berlin has been trendy for twenty years now’), during his visit he rekindled his fascination with Rome, and hopes to return soon.

Work in progress in Michael's Berlin studio.

Current work in progress in Michael’s Berlin studio.

We are pleased that the BSR, and specifically our Fine Arts records, continue to be a vital research resource for scholars and practitioners alike. If you think the BSR Archives might be useful for your research, contact Archivist Alessandra Giovenco to discuss your project.

Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager)