FE McWilliam (1909-1992)
FE McWilliam was an Irish surrealist sculptor,
who worked mainly in stone, bronze
and wood. He constantly changed
his style and subject throughout his career, but is perhaps best known
for his 'Women of Belfast' series of Irish
sculptures from 1971, which reflected the escalation of violence in
Northern Ireland at the time. There are 20 pieces in the series, several
of which show women flying through the air after a bomb explosion.
Best Known Sculptures
Legs Static, Banbridge, Co.Down
Eyes, Nose and Cheek, Tate Museum
Cain And Abel (1952), Tate Museum.
Woman In Blast (1974)
His early wood carving works were influenced by primitive art, in particular by African art and by the almost primeval simplicity of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi's works. An early example of this style is McWilliam's 'Figure' (1937, British Government Art Collection).
From 1936 onwards, his works gradually
became more influenced by Surrealism
and he was loosely associated with the British Surrealist movement. His
work 'Eye Nose and Cheek' (1939, Tate Gallery, London) is an important
piece from this time, as it demonstrates the artist's interest in the
interplay between solid volume and surrounding space, and how the viewer
completes the 'missing' parts of the sculpture in the mind's eye. It helped
to make McWilliam one of the best known surrealist
artists in Ireland.
During World War II, McWilliam spent most of his service in India. When he returned, he went to teach at the Chelsea School of Art in London. At the same time he resumed work on a number of different pieces, in various media including bronze, wood, terracotta and stone.
Important commissions included The Four Seasons for the Festival of Britain (1951), Father Courage for Kent University at Canterbury, New Zealand (1960) and Hampstead Figure at Swiss Cottage, London (1964).
As the years progressed, his works tended to become more symbolic and imaginative. His 1965 Bean Sculptures, with their swollen organic forms, celebrate and satirize physical love. McWilliam tended to work in series, producing several versions of the same theme, until that theme was exhausted and then making a radical change in subject and style.
HISTORY OF SCULPTURE
WORLD'S BEST SCULPTORS
Although he lived most of his life outside Ireland, he continued exhibiting here and maintained strong links with Irish art. He was elected Associate member of the Royal Academy in 1950 and became a full member in 1959. McWilliam died in London in 1992. He is represented in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate Gallery, London, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. Retrospectives held at Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1981 and Tate Gallery in 1989.
In December 2006, FE McWilliam's sculpture Eve was sold for €95,000, a world record price for a piece of Irish sculpture. This record lasted until October 2009, when King and Queen by Edward Delaney sold for €190,000.
More About Sculpture
For works from Ancient Greece, see Greek Sculpture. For other important Irish sculptors, read about the neo-classical John Hogan, the Anglo-Irish John Henry Foley, the Romantic Nationalist Oliver Sheppard, the nationalist realist Albert Power, the small-scale sculptress Rosamund Praeger, the traditional stone sculptor Seamus Murphy, the Polish-Irish sculptress Alexandra Wejchert, the contemporary steel sculptor Conor Fallon, the bird artist Oisin Kelly, the public artist Eamonn O'Doherty and the figurative sculptor Rowan Gillespie.