Ewbank To Sell Poignant Holocaust Memorial Macquette
Baby Study Is Working Model For Statue By Oscar Nemon
Croatian-born sculptor Oscar Nemon is perhaps best known for his series of more than a dozen public statues of Sir Winston Churchill, notably those in the House of Commons and at Westerham, near the wartime leader’s home at Chartwell, while his other sitters included Sigmund Freud, the Queen and Queen Mother, Harold Macmillan and Margaret Thatcher.
Less well known but just as iconic is his poignant memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, known as Humanity, which stands in Nemon’s home town of Osijek. It shows a mother kissing her newborn baby, which she holds above her head. Now the pottery maquette, or working study, for the child has surfaced in a London home. It will be sold on Wednesday June 30, in the important Summer auction by Surrey’s premier fine art auctioneers Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers. International interest is expected and the eight-inch high scale model is estimated to sell for £800-1,200.
Osijek in eastern Croatia was once home to a prosperous Jewish community, one of the largest in the country. However, under Nazi persecution, thousands perished in nearby death camps, including members of Nemon’s own family, and it is said that only 10 people managed to return.
The maquette is being sold by the family of Sir Rennie Maudslay, who from 1971-81 was Keeper of the Privy Purse– the person responsible for the financial management of the Royal Household. Nemon’s studio at St James’s Palace was situated next door to Sir Rennie and Lady Maudslay’s home and the sculptor became friends with the couple. He presented the maquette to them as a Christmas present and it has remained in the family ever since.
Oscar Nemon (1906-1985) was the son of a Jewish pharmaceutical manufacturer. He was an accomplished artist from an early age, and began modelling with clay at a local brickworks, exhibiting his works while still at school. He subsequently moved to Vienna, where he worked in his uncle's bronze foundry.
After a short period studying in Paris, he moved to Brussels in 1925 to study at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, where he won a gold medal for his sculpture. He shared a house in Brussels with the painter René Magritte for much of the 1930s. Nemon returned to Vienna in 1931, to create a large seated sculpture of Freud, now in Hampstead. He staged a one-man exhibition of portrait heads at the Académie, including his Freud and a bust of Paul-Henri Spaak. He made portraits of King Albert I, Queen Astrid of the Belgians, Emile Vandervelde and August Vermeylen, and also exhibited at the Galerie Monteau.
Concerned at the approaching threat of Nazi Germany, he escaped to England in 1938, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Most of his family remained in Europe and died in the Holocaust. Nemon married Patricia Villiers-Stuart, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Villiers-Stuart, in 1939 and settled in Hollywell Street in Oxford. They had a son, Falcon, and two daughters, Aurelia and Electra.
He made a bust of Max Beerbohm in 1941 (now at Merton Collegee, Oxford); Beerbohm taught him English. The growing family moved to Boars Hill, near Oxford, in 1941, first living in rented rooms, and then Nissen huts on land bought from Robert Graves which he named "Pleasant Land". He designed and built a combined house and studio on the site in the 1960s. He exhibited portraits at Regent's Park College in Oxford in 1942, and made portraits of John Rothenstein, director of the Tate Gallery, and Sir Karl Parker of the Ashmolean Museum. He became a naturalised British subject in 1948.
After the war, he produced sculptures of a spectacular list of high-profile figures. His last major piece, a monumental memorial to the Royal Canadian Air Force in Toronto, was unveiled by the Queen in 1984. He was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters at the University of St. Andrews in 1977, and a retrospective was held at the Ashmolean Museum in 1982.
The maquette will be sold with several leaflets, and two signed handwritten Christmas cards to Sir Rennie and Lady Maudslay, one dated 1984. Part of the auctioneer’s important Summer sale, it will be on public view on Saturday June 26 from 10am-2pm, Monday June 28 from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday June 29 from 10am to 8pm and on the morning of the sale.
For further information, please contact the auctioneers on 01483 223101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.