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Leeds War Memorial by Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940). 1922. Bronze figures and Carrara marble plinth. Victoria Square, in front of the Art Gallery and Institute. The summit bears a draped angelic figure in bronze. This is not Fehr's original, which (as seen in other castings) held a sword and a wreath rather than roses. The original had sustained storm damage, and was finally replaced in 1992 by a gentler, more conciliatory Angel of Peace, sculpted by Ian Judd.

Ian Judd's Angel of Peace (replacing Fehr's Victory) and Fehr's Peace releasing a dove

At the end of World War I, the Royal Academy asked sculptors to send in models of their war memorials for an exhibition. Fehr decided to offer something less conventional — and more up-to-date, it seems. The crowning figure was Victory, in clinging drapery, making a complete contrast to the other two figures below. The head of this figure can still be seen in Leeds Art Gallery, and is quite different from that of the new Angel of Peace (see offline at Leeds Art Gallery Online). The flanking figures, which we can still see today, are of St George and Peace. The former is shown as a rather typical knight of this era (cf. Frampton's The Knight of the Once). He stands astride the slain corpse of the dragon, which has a crocodile-like head and talon-like claws. Fehr was especially good at monsters and heraldic creatures generally. Like St George, Peace is very much a work of its time, a dreamy art nouveau figure in cloak and helmet-like head-dress (as for the cloak and the dreamy expression, cf. Alfred Drury's architectural sculpture of Peace on the Ministry of Defence). Fehr's version is shown in the act of releasing a dove.

St. George and the Dragon

The feet of St. George standing on the defeated dragon. Note the little owls, which are perched on each corner of the plinth. These are emblems from the city's heraldry, often seen in Leeds, and they make the memorial particular to the place.

The design was widely acclaimed, so much so that a number of towns all over the country selected it for their war memorial. These included Eastbourne in Sussex, Lockerbie in Scotland, Grangetown in Glamorgan, and Lisburn in Northern Ireland. Fehr was even commissioned to produce one for Shanghai (see "Henry Charles Fehr, R.B.S."). A website devoted to Fehr's Colchester version shows what his original Victory would have looked like. As it stands now, the monument includes two allegorical figures representing Peace, surely not what Fehr would have wanted. But the change gives an interesting insight into how monumental sculpture moves with the mood of the times.

Bibliography

Fehr, Henry. LARA (London Atelier of Representational Arts). Web. 26 June 2011.

Henry Charles Fehr, R.B.S. (excellent site run by Fehr's great-great-granddaugher). Web. 26 June 2011.

Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding: Leeds, Bradford and the North. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.


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Last modified 26 June 2011