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Girl With Hand On Hip by F.E. McWilliam


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F.E. McWilliam

McWilliam was born in Banbridge Co Down in 1902. He studied fine art painting at The Belfast School of Art and the Slade School of fine Art in London between 1928 and 1931, before moving over to sculpture in the early 1930s.

He was an Irish Surrealist Sculptor who worked in stone, bronze and wood. His style and subject constantly changed throughout his career. He is probably best known for his ‘Women of Belfast’. A series of Irish Sculptures from 1971 which, reflected the violence of Northern Ireland at the time.

His early woodcarvings were influenced by primitive art such as the likes of African sculpture. However from 1936 his work gradually became more surrealist. His Piece ’Eye, Nose and Cheek’ (1939, Tate Gallery, London.) is an important piece as it demonstrates the artist’s interest in the interplay between solid volume and surrounding space, and how the viewer completes the ‘missing space’ of the sculpture in the mind’s eye.

In World War 2 he spent most of his service in India. When he returned he began teaching at The Chelsea School of Art in London and continued to work on his own pieces. Important commissions included the Four Seasons for the Festival of Britain (1951). Father Courage for The Kent University at Canterbury, New Zealand (1960) and Hampstead Figure at Swiss Cottage, London (1964).

As the years went on his works tended to become more symbolic, such as his 1965 ‘Bean Sculptures’. He tended to work in a series until the theme was exhausted and then he would entirely change his style and subject matter.

Although he lived most of his life outside of Ireland he continued to exhibit here and maintained strong links with Irish Art. He was elected Associate member of the Royal Academy in 1950 and became a full member in 1959. He ids represented in many Public Collections including the Museum of Modern Art, new York, The Tate Gallery, London, The Irish Museum of Modern art and the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.

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