Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Postman's Park (43): the missing memorial

Alongside the tiles commemorating acts of 'ordinary heroes' was placed a modest memorial to Watts himself. He certainly had a claim to be remembered beyond his role in the Postman's Park plaques.

George Frederic Watts was among the most popular of Victorian artists, considered the Michaelangelo of nineteenth-century Britain by his contemporaries. Friends included the pre-Raphaelites, photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, and Lord Tennyson. His sculpture Physical Energy is in Hyde Park, while other works are in the Tate and National Portrait Galleries.

Much of Watts' art had a wider social purpose; the 'Hall of Fame' series of portraits, intended to provide positive examples of eminent contemporaries, was effectively a counterpart to the Postman's Park project. The latter was similarly designed to provide a good moral example to those who viewed it, as well as a recognition of the ordinary people commemorated within.

However, the statuette's inscription does nothing to describe Watts the celebrated Royal Academician. Instead, it simply records his part in the memorial:

IN MEMORIAM GEORGE FREDERIC WATTS WHO DESIRING TO HONOUR HEROIC SELF SACRIFICE PLACED THESE RECORDS HERE

Why, though, have I called this post 'the missing memorial'? Simply because it is currently absent from the park: inadequately fixed and thus vulnerable to theft, it has been removed to safe storage. Let's hope that the statue can soon return to its home, a reminder of the man whose idea the larger memorial was.

For all Postman's Park posts, click here.

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