Lecture: The Revitalisation of British Portrait Sculpture: The Role of Franta Bělský and Irena Sedlecka
On 10 November 2016 Dr. Peter Cannon-Brookes, who knew Franta Bělský (who died in 2000) and Irena Sedlecká over a long period of time, gave a talk at the Slovak Embassy on the work of these two portrait sculptors of Czech origin, who came to England in 1948 and 1967 respectively and married each other in 1997. Both were trained in the Central European sculptural tradition in Czechoslovakia and executed a number of sculptural commissions there before they emigrated.
Dr. Cannon-Brookes showed slides of many examples of their work, notably portrait sculptures that they created in Britain of well-known people, including royalty, politicians, military leaders, artistic performers, literary figures and popular musicians. Some of their commissions were won in spite of the pre-eminence in Britain of other notable portrait sculptors such as Jacob Epstein and Oscar Nemon. There were also slides of non-portrait works, including a fountain by Bělsky formerly outside the Shell Building on the South Bank and his Triga (Three Horses) outside the Caltex Building in Knightsbridge.
Following the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia several works by Bělský were installed in the Czech Republic, including a bust of Sir Winston Churchill which stands outside the British Embassy in Prague.
Image: CLOCKWISE From top left, 'F.Mercury' by Sedlecka ©Bernd Brägelmann, the rest by Bělský, 'Kenneth Williams' ©PC-B, 'Churchill' ©Matěj Bat'ha, 'John Piper' ©PC-B