Agriculture, or The Sower, by Charles Sargeant Jagger, 1928–9. Left: Bronze cast from the study of the original version, which was discarded by the committee. Right: Version as finally accepted, and produced in Portland stone, one of four installed high on the façade of Nobel House (9, Millbank, formerly the Imperial Chemical Industry or ICI building), London.

Jagger was commissioned to provide these representations of British industry by his patron, Sir Alfred Mond, founder of ICI, when the grand block was built in 1927-29 by Sir Frank Baines, as the company's headquarters in Millbank. The symbolic figure is striking down with a spade in the first version, and scattering seed in the final one, in both cases with an agricultural scene at his feet, showing a horse with a loaded haywain. By far the biggest and most dramatic difference between the two is that in the first version, the spade is directed at another figure, which is trying to fend him off. Writing of Jagger's first "proposal," John Scott explains:

I find it a gloriously powerful figure: Death's image decapitated by the farmer’s spade. The Art Committee rejected it. Finally they approved Jagger's third attempt, almost as pusillanimous as version two. There can be no more telling example of the ills of "Art by Committee." [7]

According to Ann Compton in her book on Jagger, the figure represents Starvation or Famine rather than Death as such (82). At any rate, this concept had to be abandoned. The sower in the final stone version looks grim, but is now seen as "sowing seeds at the foot of a rainbow" (85), with the sun coming up behind it. And although the haywain is still loaded, the horse seems to be pulling it much more easily.

In general, the allegorical scenes beneath the four statues are lost on observers below, and Amy Compton is surely right to say that "the silhouettes lacked the unity that usually characterised [Jagger's] statuary" (85). Even apart from the interference Jagger had faced, there had been problems with the project: earlier on, Mond had favoured him over other sculptors already involved in it, and Jagger had acted rather badly in accepting the entire commission for himself under such circumstances. But perhaps it was these very problems that gave him the impetus to follow his own course from now on, and led to the more ground-breaking work that followed (see Compton, The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger, 85-88). [Click on these photographs to enlarge them.]

Photograph on right courtesy of the Fine Art Society (catalogue p. 85). The Fine Art Society, London, has most generously given its permission to use information, images, and text from its catalogues in the Victorian Web, and this generosity has led to the creation of hundreds and hundreds of the site's most valuable documents on painting, drawing, sculpture, furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork, and the people who created them. The copyright on text and images from their catalogues remains, of course, with the Fine Art Society.

Photograph on left by Robert Freidus. Text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Bibliography

Compton, Ann. "Jagger, Charles Sargeant (1885–1934)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. David Cannadine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Online ed. Web. 1 June 2017.

_____. The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger. Much Hadham, Herts: The Henry Moore Foundation; Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2004.

Scott, John D. "Intoxicated by Curvaceous Sinuosity." Art Nouveau: Continental Design & Sculpture: The John D. Scott Collection / The Fine Art Society, Volume Seven.

Weinreb, Ben, et al. The London Encyclopaedia. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan, 2008.


Created 1 June 2017