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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Julian Phelps Allan (1892–1996)

Born Eva Dorothy Allan, she changed her name c.1929 on starting her career as a professional sculptor. Her reasons remain a source of speculation – that she hoped her work would be taken more seriously under a man’s name; that it was her way of asserting a lesbian identity; or that she renamed herself after Julian of Norwich, a female medieval English mystic, the latter suggestion perhaps the most feasible in light of her deep religious faith. Allan served in the army in both world wars, becoming a colonel in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and first president of its War Office Selection Board. She began training as an artist in the early 1920s, firstly at Westminster School of Art, then, 1922–25, at the Royal Academy (RA) Schools where she gained a Landseer scholarship in 1923 and the gold medal and travelling studentship in 1925. She showed frequently at the RA Summer Exhibitions 1925–49. In 1926, she studied with Libero Andreotti in Florence and, back in England, with Eric Gill. Allan’s interest in Romanesque and Byzantine art took her to France and Yugoslavia to study examples first-hand. She was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of British Sculptors (RBS) in 1937 and a Fellow in 1947. Her Mother and Child was illustrated in RBS. Modern British Sculpture (1939). Allan kept a studio for some years in Edinburgh, exhibiting irregularly at the Royal Scottish Academy, 1942–51, finally leaving Scotland c.1970. Registered blind by 1974, she later became deaf and spent her final years at Henley-on-Thames. The Tate has her bust, Marjorie (Chantrey Bequest 1929). Her most significant piece of public sculpture is the 6m-high Winged Victory in reconstituted concrete for St Dunstan’s Home for Blind Veterans, Ovingdean, East Sussex, 1938–39.

Bibliography: R. Barnes, The Art of Memory. Sculpture in the Cemeteries of London, Kirstead, Norfolk, 2016, p. 188; D. Buckman, Artists in Britain since 1945 (2 vols: A–L, M–Z), Bristol, 2006; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 109–10; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, pp. 89–90; Mapping SculptureTate.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022