1909 – 1992
McWilliam was born in Banbridge, County Down in 1909. He studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and then worked in Paris. McWilliam turned to sculpture in the early 1930s, making a series of carvings in wood. From 1936, his work was influenced by Surrealism and he exhibited with the Surrealist Group in 1938. His first solo show was at the London Gallery in 1939. After war service in the Royal Air Force he taught at Chelsea School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art. McWilliam made sculpture in a diverse range of media including wood, stone, concrete, terracotta and bronze and he adopted many different styles throughout his career. He was awarded a C.B.E. in 1966 and the Oireachtas Gold Medal by Trinity College, Dublin in 1971. His work has been shown in many national and international exhibitions including many of the London County Council open-air shows held in the 1950s and 60s and various British Council touring exhibitions in the 1950s. A major solo exhibition of his work was held at the Tate Gallery in 1989. His commissions include The Four Seasons for the Festival of Britain, Man and Bird for Basildon New Town and the Witch of Agnesi for Avery Hill Training College, Woolwich. His work is included in many major collections including the Tate Gallery, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. McWilliam died in London in 1992.
Height: 183 cm
West Walk Town Centre
Listed grade 11, 19th Jan 2016
F E McWilliam produced work influenced by surrealism in the 30’s and 40’s but by the 50’s was more naturalistic. His work was more widely acknowledged when included in an Arts Council show which travelled to Canada and the States in 1955-6. In January 1957 he offered a full height bronze figure of his fellow artist and former student of his at Chelsea, Elisabeth Frink, to the Tate Gallery, which was declined but proposed by the Director of the National Gallery, Sir Philip Hendy, for Harlow. The trustees went to see it first in the LCC’s open- air sculpture exhibition in Holland Park.
McWilliam wrote in the catalogue, ‘In this figure, my aim was simply to make a complete portrait, with every part contributing to the portrait and nothing included unessential to that end.’ The pose is based on the Greek kouros type of which there was an example in the Slade life room.
The work was purchased with the help of the Contemporary Art Society and placed in the Market Square near to Ralph Brown’s Meat Porters. It now stands in West Walk.
The work was Listed by Historic England in January 2016
Bronze cast and modelled
St John’s ARC
In 1976 McWilliam, an Ulsterman was commissioned to produce a six foot high bronze on the theme of peace for Northern Ireland. One of a series, Help was unveiled in West Square by Sir Hugh Casson, President of the Royal Academy of Arts. in 1978,representing two women from the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 were campaigners during the Irish Troubles. McWilliam began making works about peace after the bombing of the Abercorn Tea Rooms (1972). Help was moved to St John’s Art and Recreation Centre in Old Harlow. It was listed grade II 19 January 2016.
Part of the Gibberd Garden Sculptures.
From 1948 London County Council put on a series of open air sculpture exhibitions on London parklands, most notably in Battersea and Holland Park.
In 1963 American sculptors were included. See under Exhibitions