The following, written by Tom Maxwell, is taken from issue 50, Winter 2000, of The Review.
Running from May to September of 1948 in the Park, it is hard to underestimate the importance of this exhibition. Not only was it the first in Britain but it acted as a catalyst for many others elsewhere. The exhibition committee was quite star studded. It included Henry Moore, the Directors of the Tate and National Galleries, Frank Dobson, the then Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, and Sir Kenneth Clarke, who gave two public lectures about the exhibition. Forty three sculptures were shown celebrating work from the first half of the last century. Before this exhibition British cities had less public sculpture the anywhere else in Europe.
The full details of all the exhibited pieces are shown in the 1948 catalogue, a copy of which the Friends are happy to have in their possession. It is difficult to imagine such a famous collection ever coming together again. In the original catalogue visitors were encouraged to write to the sculptors direct! A public open air exhibition of this calibre is long overdue. The following gives a taste of what was included.
Rodin – his early piece Age of Bronze sometimes called Man Awakening to Nature. He was accused of taking a cast from a living body as it was so life like.
Zadkine – The cubist inspired Laokoon was shown. As with his masterpiece Monument, commemerating the destruction of Rotterdam, there is violence and similarities to Picasso’s Guernica.
Other notable works include Despiau – Eve, Matisse – a bas-relief, Hepworth – Helikon, Laurens – Les Ondines, Gill – Mankind, Moore – Recumbent Figure 1938 and Three Standing Figures (that remain in the Park), Lipchitz – Figure, Maillol- The Three Graces and Venus with necklace and Epstein Girl with Gardenias and The Visitation.