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Unidentified photographer, Photograph of the former  British Medical Association building with figures by Sir Jacob Epstein

Photograph of the former British Medical Association building with figures by Sir Jacob Epstein, 1930

Unidentified photographer

RA Collection: Art

This 1930 photograph of the former British Medical Association building in the Strand, shows two of the eighteen figures by Jacob Epstein, [counting from around the corner in Agar street] the eleventh statue, an old woman with long plaits carrying a baby before her and the twelfth statue, a man, extending his arms and covering his face. After the statues were multilated in 1937, the head of the old woman was found some twenty-four years later, in a school in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.

Five of these black and white photographs, ca. 1930 show Epstein's figures for the former British Medical Association building at the corner of Agar Street and the Strand. The photographs show the figures prior to their destruction in 1937.

In 1908, the architect Charles Holden commissioned sculpture from the twenty-eight year old Jacob Epstein to decorate the British Medical Association building in the Strand. Epstein carved eighteen, eight foot nude figures, fourteen of which flanked the seven windows facing Agar Street and a further four framing two windows on the Strand. The statues, which depicted the ages of man, provoked considerable controversy and the B.M.A. was called upon to remove them. However a campaign supporting Epstein eventually prevailed and statues were saved. When in 1935, the building was acquired by the Rhodesian High Commission, it was announced that the sculptures would be removed, obstensibly because the figures were unsafe. A campaign was started to save them and letters of protest were sent to the press. According to one, signed by Kenneth Clark, Lord Crawford, H.A.Goodhart-Rendell and others, if the removal went ahead, their generation would be charged with an act 'of grave vandalism'. When the President of the Royal Academy refused to support the appeal, Walter Sickert R.A. resigned as an Academician. Unfortunately this time the campaign failed and in 1937 the mutilation of the figures went ahead. What remains of Epstein's work can still be seen today.

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Object details

Title
Photograph of the former British Medical Association building with figures by Sir Jacob Epstein
Photographed by
Artist/designer
Sir Jacob Epstein (1880 - 1959)
Date
1930
Object type
Photograph
Dimensions

156 mm x 207 mm

Collection
Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
08/3331
Acquisition
Given by Piers Rodgers 17/02/1987
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