Unveiling Ouida: A Glimpse of Public Sculpture in the Early 20th Century

On a crisp day in November 1910, a crowd gathered in the small town of Bury St Edmunds to witness the unveiling of a new public momument. Dressed in the day’s finery, men, women and children waited for a glimpse of the bronze and marble statue by sculptor Ernest Gillick, commemorating the life of locally-born author Marie Louise de la Ramee, who wrote under the pseudonym Ouida.

The photograph provides a rare insight into public arts practices and partonage in the early 20th century Britain, and are part of a collection of papers belonging to sculptors Ernest and Mary Gillick, donated to Leeds Museums & Galleries, deposited in the Henry Moore Institute Archive, in 2005. I found these during my internship with Leeds Museums & Galleries, working through and listing the extensive archive of drawings, letters, diaries, photographs and research papers.

Born in Bradford in 1874, Ernest Gillick attended the Nottingham School of Art from 1896-1899, where his talents won him several gold medal awards. In 1901, The Royal College of Art Awarded Gillick a National Travelling Studentship and he spent a year studying the architecture and sculpture of Italy. He was elected Associate of the Royal College of Art in 1904.

Misty Ericson, intern, December 2010

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