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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Frantisek (Franta) Belsky (1921–2000)

Sculptor. Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, son of economist, Joseph Belsky. At 16 he won a prize in a sculpture competition in Prague. His family fled to England in 1938. Belsky studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (1939–40). He served in the artillery during World War II. After the war he recommenced his artistic education, studying sculpture at the Royal College of Art, completing his course there in 1950. As a sculptor he was known for his portraiture, but also produced abstract sculpture and architectural works. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors (Council Member 1958–92) and was President of the Society of Portrait Sculptors (1963–68 and 1994–99). Portrait busts include Cecil Day-Lewis (National Portrait Gallery, 1952), Admiral Lord Cunningham (Trafalgar Square, 1967), Harry S. Truman (Presidential Library, Independence, Missouri, 1974), John Piper (National Portrait Gallery, 1987) and Winston Churchill (Churchill College, Cambridge). Belsky also executed many busts of members of the royal family. His public statues include Winston Churchill (Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri; British Embassy, Prague) and Lord Mountbatten of Burma (Horseguards Parade, London, 1983). Other sculptures include Paratroop Memorial (Prague, 1947), Cecil Rhodes Statue (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 1953), Joy Ride (Town Square, Stevenage, 1957) and Triga (Caltex House, Knightsbridge, 1958), and RAF Memorial (Prague, 1995). The massive Shell Centre Fountain (Lambeth, 1963) is also by Belsky. Governor of St Martin’s School of Art, 1967–88. He married Margaret Owen in 1964, who was to become better known as the cartoonist, ‘Belsky’. She died in 1989. In 1996 he married the Czech sculptor, Irena Sedlecka. Vaclav Havel, then President of the Czech Republic, presented Belsky with the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1999.

Bibliography (updated 2023): F. Belsky, Franta Belsky Sculpture (intro. C. Lom; reviews by M. Levy and G.S. Whittet), London and Prague, 1992; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 445–46; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 30–32, 46–47, 86, 316–18; Guardian, 7 July 2000 (obit); Times, 7 July 2000 (obit.); P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 77–79, 303, 304; D. White and E. Norman, Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Liverpool, 2015, pp. 39–40; T. Wyke, Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester, Liverpool, 2004, pp. 155–56.

Philip Ward-Jackson 2011

Belsky, Frantisek (Franta)

Franta Belsky (photo: public domain)