NELSON RETURNS TO GREENWICH
The work took two years to complete and involved extensive research, as well as the creation of several metre high statues (link to limited edition statues) and a model of the Trafalgar Tavern.
The statue was commissioned for Greenwich by Frank Dowling, an entrepreneur who was passionate about British Naval History. Mr Dowling had seen Lesley’s portrait sculpture of Nelson, (link to photo, a description and info re limited edition) exhibited in The Painted Hall, Greenwich. Subsequently, after seeing a portfolio of her previous work, gave her the commission of a lifetime.
I was given a large studio by Mr Dowling, behind the Trafalgar Tavern and next to the Old Royal Naval College. I had access to Nelson’s life mask and original archives in the Maritime Museum, Greenwich. It was a huge responsibility to honour Nelson, but it was wonderful to create it right in the heart of Greenwich, with my finger on the pulse of an area saturated in Naval History.
Unlike the iconic statue in Trafalgar Square, however, this figure is entirely accessible to passers by, being set at ground level. Members of the public can stand beside the nation’s greatest hero to have their photos taken.
It has become a landmark for the millions of tourists who visit Greenwich, a World Heritage Site, each year.
Name of Piece:
- Lord Admiral Nelson
- 2 Years from inception
- Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich
A ten minute film called Capturing Nelson depicts the making of the statue.
In her own words...
It was time to work on Nelson in full naval uniform and I was still struggling to find a suitable model. Nicholas’s younger brother Charlie had modelled for me four years previously and now 16 was free during the summer holidays. I realised I wasn’t going to find a ‘Nelson’ and that perhaps I had to do it by collating several studies. Charlie turned up to go to Angels Costumiers to hire the costume. I had not seen him in four years and when I opened the door, there was a young Nelson standing before me! Charlie himself was quite stunned when I quickly showed him the look alike portrait of him in a Nelson book.
At the costumiers there wasn’t a coat available that fit but even wearing rather baggy period garments Charlie looked very comfortable in period costume. I told the costume assistant of the project and he remarked how lucky I was to have found a Nelson lookalike. Two years on we rehired the costume for the filming; Charlie now with long hair tied back and looking every inch a noble youth, the costume fit as if tailor made.
On the final day at the studio, when the mould makers had finished the mould, we left a now battle worn clay Nelson and went next door to the Trafalgar Tavern to have lunch (my client owns the Trafalgar and had kindly given me a temporary studio in the outhouses next to it.).
During the two years of working I always kept a print of Turner’s exquisite painting, The Fighting Temeraire beside me. In it the Temeraire is being towed away by a small black tug to be scrapped. The ship appears to be made of gold catching the reflection of the sunset, the sky a fusion of setting sun and rising moon, a symbol of unity and self realisation. The Trafalgar Tavern is a beautiful building with large bay windows looking out onto the river. Finishing lunch we heard an enormous ship’s blast. Looking out we saw a small black tug pulling a battleship, called Enlightenment; more Nelson magic...