An aesthetic defense of the statue of Edward Colston and his sculptor | Sculpture


It is perhaps a little ironic that a professor of public history at the University of Manchester rejects, and in the Guardian for that matter, the now notorious statue of sculptor John Cassidy by Edward Colston as a “mediocre piece of public art of the late Victorian era ”(‘A Powerful Historical Artefact’: Statue of Edward Colston’s New Role, June 4).

Cassidy (1860-1939) was a sculptor from Mancun, whose Victoria Jubilee fountain adorns Place Albert and whose masterpiece, the allegorical group A Drift, is a prominent feature of Place Saint-Pierre. It represents, he writes, “the dependence of human beings on one another, the response of human sympathy to human needs.”

Cassidy was associated with the New Sculpture movement in the 1880s and 1890s, which particularly reflected Rodin’s influence. In his imagery, Adrift also returns to Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Colston’s intriguing pose seems a conscious echo of Rodin’s Thinker, and the sculpture’s living modeling is Rodinesque. From a purely aesthetic point of view, it is a little more than “mediocre”, I would say.

Cassidy was an Irish Catholic with revolutionary sympathies (he attended a memorial to Wolfe Tone in 1898) who moved to Manchester at the age of around 20 and remained there his entire life. It seems unlikely that Colston’s Bristol admirers who commissioned the statue bothered to inform him of Colston’s violent anti-Catholicism and rabid Toryism, let alone the slave trade.
Simon casimir wilson

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