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Published: Wednesday, 4/10/2013

Sculpture in Hillsdale among few worldwide

‘Iron Lady’s’ hometown aims to commission 1

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Flowers honor former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her statue at Hillsdale College after her death this week. The 'Iron Lady' was 87. Flowers honor former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at her statue at Hillsdale College after her death this week. The 'Iron Lady' was 87.
SHANNON ODELL Enlarge

California artist Bruce Wolfe traveled to London to meet — and measure — the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher for a bronze statue now showcased on Hillsdale College’s campus.

The Hillsdale sculpture of the “Iron Lady,” who died Monday at age 87, is one of several artistic representations of the conservative icon. Other sculptures of Ms. Thatcher are displayed in London, and a museum in her hometown of Grantham, England, is raising money to commission another one.

Mr. Wolfe of Piedmont, Calif., began work in 2007 on his sculpture of Ms. Thatcher, depicted at the height of her career. He and his wife Linda Wolfe went to Ms. Thatcher’s London home, where he used calipers to measure her facial features and spent a little more than an hour with her.

“She was such a good sport,” said Ms. Wolfe, who recalled it snowed when they went outdoors to shoot photos in natural light for reference. “She was very gracious, lovely.”

The sculpture shows Ms. Thatcher seated with her legs crossed. When they met, she was in a chair and “didn’t walk too easily,” Mr. Wolfe said, adding he wanted the work “to be ladylike.”

The college, known for its conservative principles and refusal of government funding, unveiled the work in 2008. It is displayed on the campus Liberty Walk, which features sculptures of the nation’s founding fathers and other leaders.

Ms. Thatcher did not attend the statue’s dedication, but wrote a letter expressing her enthusiasm for the piece. The day after her death, flowers and a pink-and-white floral wreath decorated its base.

Hillsdale isn’t the only institution to memorialize her in sculpture.

England’s volunteer-run Grantham Museum maintains a collection that includes some of Ms. Thatcher’s personal items such as shoes, a handbag, a dress, and letters. It does not have a sculpture — yet. Officials want to raise more than $300,000 to commission a sculpture and renovate the museum, an effort under way since before Ms. Thatcher’s death.

A bronze statue of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher is in the Palace of Westminster. A bronze statue of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher is in the Palace of Westminster.
AFP/GETTY IMAGES Enlarge

Richard Davies, a museum trustee who was unaware of the Hillsdale statue, said Tuesday he expects it will take “more than a year and less than five years” to raise the funds. He said visits to a fund-raising Web site have increased since “our local girl has passed on.”

Ms. Thatcher’s politics attracted critics and generated controversy. A statement on the Web site acknowledges “there may be opposition” to its sculpture plans but that many want to recognize “that a grocer's daughter from Grantham who was proud to come from the town became the country’s first female prime minister.”

Another sculpture of Ms. Thatcher prompted headlines after a protester decapitated it about a decade ago, though Mr. Davies contends that particular work doesn’t do justice to someone “as imposing and significant as Margaret Thatcher.”

The sculpture has since been repaired and is housed in a glass cabinet at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Andrew Buckingham, a City of London Corporation spokesman, said the 8-foot-tall, 2-ton marble sculpture is owned by the Palace of Westminster. A small floral display was placed near the statue in tribute after Ms. Thatcher’s death, he said. Visitors can view the sculpture located in a balcony corner.

“I don’t know whether they’ve made a particular pilgrimage, but people are aware that we have the statue,” Mr. Buckingham said.

In 2007, Ms. Thatcher attended the unveiling of a bronze statue displayed in the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons in London. According to a BBC News report, Ms. Thatcher quipped: “I might have preferred iron, but bronze will do. It won’t rust. And, this time I hope, the head will stay on.”

Created by artist Antony Dufort, it stands in an area that is not publicly accessible, according to a House of Commons spokesman. Tradition calls for a sculpture to be displayed in Parliament only after the person it honors has died, though Ms. Thatcher’s more than 7-foot tall statue is an exception.

A 2-ton statue of Margaret Thatcher stands in the Guildhall Art Gallery in London. The statue was decapitated in 2002 by a theater producer. A 2-ton statue of Margaret Thatcher stands in the Guildhall Art Gallery in London. The statue was decapitated in 2002 by a theater producer.
GETTY IMAGES Enlarge

Britain’s Conservative party displays in the main reception area of its central office in London a 2008 bronze bust of Ms. Thatcher created by Margarita Hernandez.

And back in the United States, in Salt Lake City, a bust of Ms. Thatcher is located in the England gardens section of the International Peace Gardens. She visited Utah in 1996, when she toured a downtown department store that helped arrange the visit and also made a speech, recalled Irene Wiesenberg, of Salt Lake City and formerly of England, who serves with a group that promotes the gardens.

As best as Mrs. Wiesenberg can remember, the bust was intended to be a gift to Ms. Thatcher, but she didn’t take it home. Arrangements were eventually made to display the work by Utah sculptor Edward Fraughton in the gardens.

“The thing that made it special is that she is the only woman prime minister of Great Britain, and it made it special for the garden to have something there,” Mrs. Wiesenberg said. “It’s been a great addition to the England garden so we’re very happy to have it.”

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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