Raymond Mason (sculptor)
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Raymond Grieg Mason OBE (2 March 1922, in Birmingham, England – 13 February 2010 inParis, France) was a sculptor.
He trained at the Birmingham School of Arts and Crafts under William Bloye, the Royal College of Art (for one term), and Slade School of Art. He lived and worked in Paris beginning in 1946. He was a close friend of the late Nobel Prize–winning scientist Maurice Wilkins.
He is known for his sculptures of tightly packed people made from clay, with works on McGill College Avenue in Montreal; the Tuileries, Paris; Georgetown, Washington, D.C.; and Madison Avenue, New York. His controversial 1991 work, Forward! in Birmingham's Centenary Square was destroyed by arson on 17 April 2003. The statue carried a reference to DNA ("the secret of life") in connection with Maurice Wilkins, who went to school in Birmingham and worked at the University of Birmingham.
He was the subject of an episode of the BBC television series "Omnibus", The Return of Raymond Mason, broadcast on 28 November 1982, and was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to sculpture and to Anglo-French relations in the 2002 New Year Honours.
Raymond Mason died 13 February 2010.
- Mason, Raymond (2003) At Work in Paris - Raymond Mason on Art and Artists. Thames And Hudson. ISBN 0-500-51114-4 盧浮宮私人辭典的 盧浮宮廣場一文選其書寫作品。
- Edwards, Michael (1994) Raymond Mason. Thames And Hudson. ISBN 0-500-09245-1
- George T. Noszlopy, edited Jeremy Beach, Public Sculpture of Birmingham including Sutton Coldfield, 1998, ISBN 0-85323-692-5
- Grimes, William (2010-02-25).
"Raymond Mason, Sculptor Who Focused on Street-Level Drama, Is Dead at 87". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved2010-02-25.
Jump up^ "BBC One London, 28 November 1982 22.05: Omnibus". Radio Times (BBC) 237 (3081): 42. 25 November 1982.
Jump up^ http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesonline-uk/obituary.aspx?n=raymond-mason&pid=139860744
Birmingham City Council - page on Forward! sculpture
BBC news story on the arson attack on Forward!
Raymond Mason - Daily Telegraph obituary
Raymond MasonRaymond Mason, who died on February 13 aged 87, was an artist in the British narrative tradition of Hogarth and Stanley Spencer, sculpting complex crowd scenes packed with detail; despite this, he made his home in Paris, where he was part of an artistic set that included Giacometti, Picasso and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Mason tirelessly composed complex sculptures in which every element finds its place and where the viewer's movements continually reveal new relationships of shape and colour. His work always had a story to tell – by turns tragic, epic and comic – and did so through his concern for composition, and by his new and painterly exploration of perspective in sculpture.
In his large pieces, nearly all of crowds, he was conscious of reviving the great tradition of sculpture: figurative, polychromatic, and universal in its subject matter. One of his most celebrated and monumental works is The Crowd (1965), a tumbling mass of 99 figures which was cast twice in bronze and is now installed in Paris and New York.
But he also continued to work in plaster and then began to have his figures cast in resin so they could be painted. Works in this new format depict, for example, the closing of the centuries-old market of Les Halles in Paris; the anxious waiting after a mining disaster; an "illuminated crowd" stretched between wonder and despair; a group of grape-pickers; students demonstrating in the Latin Quarter; the history of Birmingham and his own lifelong engagement with that "heart" of England.
Everywhere there are profound and recognisable human passions, a sense of place (the figures appear nearly always in a setting) and a reaching out both to the humanity of the viewer and to his desire for form, to his joy in art.
Raymond Grieg Mason was born on March 2 1922 in Birmingham to a Scottish motor-mechanic and a publican's daughter. He was educated at George Dixon secondary school before winning a scholarship to Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts. Called up in 1939, he joined the Navy but was invalided out in 1941. He won a painting scholarship to the Royal College of Art before returning, the following year, to Birmingham, where he earned a living producing portraits.
After being evacuated to Oxford he met Eduardo Paolozzi, then turned to sculpture, which he studied at the Slade at war's end. Keen to learn about his new medium, he visited Henry Moore in Hampstead; in 1946, he left for Paris, which was to become home for the rest of his life.
For a couple of years Mason lived a makeshift existence. Then he met Alberto Giacometti, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship, and whose example encouraged him to forsake abstract for figurative work. In 1952 Mason produced Man in Street – a low relief of a man's head in front of a building – which he considered the starting point of his career as a professional artist: "To get a spark, one thing has to strike another," he said. "So I sculpted the head and straightaway I put the façade of a house behind it. And that's how it started."
It was also at this time that Mason first met Picasso. This was in the south of France, where Mason was later to acquire a small farmhouse. He also became friendly with Francis Bacon, and Mason's entry into Paris' celebrated cultural milieu was completed in 1955, when the artist Balthus introduced him to a salon whose members included Max Ernst, Man Ray, Francis Poulenc and Jacques Prévert.
He was a welcome addition to the scene. A great storyteller, Mason was unsurpassed in the art of the anecdote. Drawing in the Musée Rodin when it was closed to the public, he once found his sketches being assessed by Paul Newman, who had arrived in a limousine for a four-hour private visit. Mason recalled that Newman – no doubt fearful of being quoted – refused to issue any utterance in their conversation apart from "uh-huh".
On another occasion, while dining at Le Grand Véfour, Mason found himself at a table next to Bill Clinton, with whom he immediately struck up a brief but laughter-filled acquaintance.
Once Mason was drawing his own sculpture, The Crowd, in the Tuileries Gardens. A stranger watched him for a long time in silence and eventually remarked: "You draw really well. But why are you drawing that shit?"
Mason gradually established an international reputation, chiefly through his monumental works. He joined successively the galleries of Claude Bernard in Paris and Pierre Matisse in New York, then the Marlborough Gallery in New York and London; and large, well-attended retrospectives were held at the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Mason's originality is less evident than that of Moore or Giacometti, but in work like The Departure of Fruit and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris,28 February 1969, with its mastery and exuberant treatment of both the grave and the droll, it may prove as lasting. This piece, dense in its vision of the world's plenty, moves from level to level of a midwinter night's dream, ordering the procession of sad but rapt market workers; a lovers' kiss; a Harlequin; an offering to the night sky of a crate of oranges; and, rather than a Christ, a market gardener in majesty.
A powerful baritone (he would listen to opera, especially Verdi, while working on his larger pieces), Mason remained quintessentially English, with his Church shoes and sports jacket from the Old England store in Paris.
That was also true in a more inward sense, through his memory and imagination permeated by the Birmingham of his childhood, by its industrial architecture, its deep-red brick complementing the green of the countryside, its sense of work and of purpose, and above all its workers and its crowds.
Championed by André Malraux, and photographed several times by his friend Cartier-Bresson, Mason was appointed OBE and was made an Officer in the French Order of Arts and Letters. Yet he remained at once famous and hardly known, admired by artists whom the public admire and ignored by most critics, with certain of his best works only to be seen in his flat on the rue Monsieur-le-Prince.
His monument to Birmingham, Forward, installed in Centenary Square and inaugurated by the Queen in 1991, was destroyed by vandals in 2003.
Raymond Mason's funeral was held in St Eustache church, the crowd gathering in front of his piece Departure, which is installed there; the organ was played by his friend, composer Jean Guillou. He is survived by his wife, Janine Hao, and three stepdaughters.
|Last Updated: Friday, 18 April, 2003, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK |
Teenager charged with statue arson
West Midlands Police received more than 50 calls about the fire within minutes of it starting and arrived at the scene just after 1330 BST.
Police said the three youths, who are from the Bartley Green area of the city, were arrested in Victoria Square on suspicion of setting fire to the sculpture.
The £200,000 fibre-glass statue, by artist Raymond Mason, was erected when the square was completed in 1991.
Claire Jepson Homer, who works at the nearby Birmingham Rep Theatre, told BBC Radio WM it was a shock to see the statue on fire.
"The statue suddenly turned into a big cloud of smoke," she said.
"It was quite a sight really."
Forward, a cream-coloured work known locally as the Lurpak sculpture because it looks almost as if it is carved out of butter, was supposed to represent the city's early 1990s renaissance.