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Augustus John statue

A Grade II Listed Building in Fordingbridge, Hampshire

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Latitude: 50.9274 / 50°55'38"N

Longitude: -1.7891 / 1°47'20"W

OS Eastings: 414920

OS Northings: 114237

OS Grid: SU149142

Mapcode National: GBR 52Z.Y7R

Mapcode Global: FRA 764N.GT9

Plus Code: 9C2WW6G6+X9

Entry Name: Augustus John statue

Listing Date: 19 January 2016

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1431368

Location: Fordingbridge, New Forest, Hampshire, SP6

County: Hampshire

Civil Parish: Fordingbridge

Built-Up Area: Fordingbridge

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire

Church of England Parish: Fordingbridge St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Winchester

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Statue of Augustus John OM, RA, in bronze on a limestone plinth, 1964-7 by Ivor Roberts-Jones, situated on the east bank of the river Avon, Fordingbridge, Hampshire.


Statue of Augustus John OM, RA, in bronze on a limestone plinth, 1964-7 by Ivor Roberts-Jones, situated on the east bank of the river Avon, Fordingbridge, Hampshire.

This over-life size statue, 1.9m in height, depicts the artist Augustus John in old age. Bearded, barefoot and dressed in simple clothes, the figure has a striding or lurching gait, his arms held outwards and hands clenched in a purposeful manner. The hands and head are heavily modelled and the expression is one of driving, perhaps impatient, energy. The sculpture is mounted on a bronze base and a limestone plinth inscribed ‘AUGUSTUS JOHN OM RA / SCULPTED BY / IVOR ROBERTS JONES CE RA’. On the obverse is ‘FORDINGBRIDGE 1928–1961’, and ‘PAINTER’ and ‘1878–1961’ are inscribed on each side.


The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire and the new towns leading the way in public patronage. Thus public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20 however, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.

Visual languages ranged from the abstraction of Victor Pasmore and Phillip King to the figurative approach of Elisabeth Frink and Peter Laszlo Peri, via those such as Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth who bridged the abstract/representational divide. The post-war decades are characterised by the exploitation of new – often industrial – materials and techniques including new welding and casting techniques, plastics and concrete, while kinetic sculpture and ‘ready mades’ (using found objects) demonstrate an interest in composite forms.

Ivor Roberts-Jones CBE RA (1913-96) was a British sculptor of public memorial sculptures and portrait heads. Born in Oswestry, Shropshire to a Welsh father and an English mother, Roberts-Jones studied as a painter at Goldsmiths College of Art in London. Deciding after 18 months to train as a sculptor he transferred to the Royal Academy Schools under the tutelage of William Reid Dick. After wartime service in Burma, Roberts-Jones became a tutor at Goldsmiths, and was promoted to Head of Sculpture in 1964. His 1950s output mainly consisted of portraiture and small figures for Anglican churches but, according to his biographer Jonathan Black, the Augustus John sculpture marked a turning point in Roberts-Jones’ career. A series of prominent commissions followed, including statues of Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London (1971-73, Grade II); Field Marshal Viscount William Slim on Whitehall (1987-90) and Prime Minister Clement Attlee in the House of Commons.

The artist and portraitist Augustus John (1878–1961) was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire and studied at the Slade School of Art, London where he established a reputation as a talented artist, albeit rather an anarchical one. John worked as an official artist during the First World War before being attached to the British delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. John moved to Fyern Court, close to Fordingbridge, Hampshire in 1927, commissioning the architect Christopher Nicholson to renovate it and building a new studio (the latter, of 1933, is listed at Grade II). John was elected a Royal Academician in 1928 and president of the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art in 1934; he was later president of the Welsh Contemporary Arts Society. In 1948 a major retrospective of John’s work was held at the Leicester Galleries. In the 1950s John took lessons in sculpture with Fiore de Henriquez. Roberts-Jones was probably introduced to John through de Henriquez or Sir Charles Wheeler, present of the Royal Academy, and taught him how to model in clay and make plaster casts.

After John’s memorial service in 1962 his family, along with various acquaintances and admirers, suggested that he should have a permanent memorial in Fordingbridge, and Roberts-Jones was approached by the John family in late 1963. An Augustus John Memorial Committee was formed the following year; the business of securing a site, funds and the necessary approvals was protracted and at times contentious. At first Roberts-Jones considered a group sculpture depicting a seated John painting his partner Dorothy ‘Dorelia’ McNeil, but in 1966, on grounds of cost, the Committee instead requested a single figure of John. Working from a small studio in St James’ Gardens, Roberts-Jones divided the figure into three separate sections, head and neck, chest and arms and midriff and legs. The statue was cast by Michael Gaskin of the Art Bronze Foundry and unveiled in October 1967 by Lord Mountbatten on a riverside site near the Victoria Assembly Rooms.

The statue was moved in March 1999 to a site on the east banks of the river Avon beside the medieval bridge from which the town takes its name. ‘'Rather appropriately'’, Roberts-Jones’ biographer Jonathan Black has written, ‘'the impression is given of the painter, having abruptly left a pub across the road, making his determined way on unsteady legs along the river towards his home at Fryern Court'’ (Black 2014, pg. 119).

Reasons for Listing

The bronze sculpture of Augustus John of 1964-67 by Ivor Roberts-Jones, situated on the east bank of the river Avon, Fordingbridge, Hampshire is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic interest: this intimate portrait abandons the idealising mode associated with memorial sculpture for a striking rendering of artistic energy and frustration;
* Historic interest: as a public commemoration of the noted C20 artist Augustus John, situated in the town in which he spent the second half of his life;
* Sculptor: an important work by this acclaimed memorial sculptor and portraitist;
* Group value: for its visual association with the historic bridge from which the town takes its name, both listed at Grade II* and a Scheduled Monument.

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