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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Arnrid Banniza Johnston (1895–1972)

Sculptor and illustrator. She was born in Sweden but she and her parents moved to England while she was still a child. She studied, 1914–21, at the Slade School of Fine Art where she won the Feodora Gleichen memorial prize for sculpture; her tutor at the Slade was James Havard Thomas. She worked in stone, marble and wood, her principal subjects, animals and children. Kineton Parkes, in his The Art of Carved Sculpture, rated Obelisk, commissioned by the Duke of Westminster for Walden Court, Pimlico, and erected c.1930, ‘her most important work’. He also lists several other works of relief sculpture – Cats on a Chimney CowlSquirrelsResting HorsesMilking; and Pastoral (this last in blue Belgian marble) – and three in the round – a cow and girl; a cat (in wood); and a St Francis (in mahogany). She exhibited at the Goupil Gallery, Chenil Gallery and Whitechapel Art Gallery, and took part in the Selfridge Roof Garden exhibition of the London Group, her contributions being a bird bath and a work entitled In Pasture (in green serpentine). Her first work as a professional illustrator, 1930–35, was for the Underground Group and London Transport, designing posters. Shortly after she began writing and illustrating children’s books, including Animal Families (Country Life), 1939; Fables from Aesop and Others (Transatlantic Arts), 1944; and Animals We Use (Methuen), 1948. She was compelled to give up illustrating in her later years following the deterioration of her eyesight.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 464–65; I. Fraser, ‘The “English Independents”: some twentieth-century women carvers’, Sculpture Journal, Vol. 23.3 (2014), pp. 370–71; London Transport Museum website; Mapping Sculpture; K. Parkes, The Art of Carved Sculpture, 1931, vol. 2, p. 125 (and photo of Obelisk on page facing); Wikipedia.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022