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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Julius [Uli] Nimptsch (1897–1977)

Sculptor born 22 May 1897 in Charlottenburg, Berlin. He studied firstly at the School of Applied Art, Berlin (1915–17), and then at the Berlin Academy of Arts (1919–26), under Professors Wilhelm Gerstel and Hugo Lederer. He was awarded a Rome prize in 1928, and lived and worked mostly in Rome from 1931, returning to Germany in 1936. In 1925, however, he had married a Jewish woman, Ruth Berthe Steinthal (d.1974) and, to escape the Nazis, the couple left Germany, settling in London in 1939 and subsequently taking British nationality. Nimptsch was a modeller rather than carver, with the female nude, based on the life model, his preferred subject. The earliest and most profound influence on his work was the sculpture of classical Greece and Rome, later overlaid by the more naturalistic styles of Jules Dalou and Charles Despiau. Nimptsch’s first solo exhibition was at the Redfern Gallery, London, 1942. In 1944, on the occasion of his next major exhibition, at Leeds City Art Gallery’s wartime home, Temple Newsam House, a bronze cast of his masterpiece in the classical style, Marietta (1936–38), was acquired for the Gallery by its then director, Philip Hendy. In 1948 Nimptsch became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists and in the same year was included in the first of the London County Council’s (LCC) open-air exhibitions in Battersea Park (he was included again in 1951, 1960 and 1963). In 1951, his Girl seated on a stone plinth was acquired by the Arts Council (acc. no. AC179). In 1957, he was the subject of an exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, and showed for the first time at the annual Royal Academy summer exhibitions, both exhibitions including casts of his reclining female nude (Olympia). The Royal Academy cast (no. 1468) had been previously purchased, as announced in that year’s catalogue, under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest (and is now in the Tate, T00097); and the Walker Art Gallery cast (WAG 2630) was purchased by that Gallery with contributions from the P.H. Holt Trust and Lord Cohen of Birkenhead. Nimptsch was elected an Associate Royal Academician (ARA) in the following year, became a full RA in 1967, a Senior RA in 1972 and was Master of the RA Sculpture School 1966–69. Following Sir Jacob Epstein’s death in 1959, his commission for an over-life-size bronze statue of David Lloyd George (prime minister, 1916–22) for the Commons Lobby of the Houses of Parliament, was transferred to Nimptsch, who completed the work in 1963. Nimptsch’s other public commissions include Neighbourly Encounter (exh. RA 1961, no. 1258), commissioned by the LCC for the Silwood Housing Estate, Lewisham, south London (stolen mid-to-late 1980s);  The Good Samaritan (exh. RA 1963, as ‘Compassion’, no. 1264), for Selly Oak Hospital (subsequently relocated to Queen Elizabeth Hospital), Birmingham; a bronze group of a man teaching a youth to read (exh. RA 1965, no 1547), commissioned by Vauxhall Motors Ltd for Luton Central Library; and Christ Ascendant, 1964, for St Wilfrid’s Church, Bognor Regis. Nimptsch died on 2 January 1977, having bequeathed ten of his sculptures to the RA, along with a painted portrait of himself (1957, RA, acc. no. 03/336) by his friend, Oskar Kokoschka.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of South London, Liverpool, 2007, pp. 370, 375–77; D.F. Jenkins, ‘Nimptsch, Julius [Uli]’, ODNB, 2004; Mapping Sculpture; G.T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Birmingham (ed. J. Beach), Liverpool, 1998, p. 96; Royal Academy of Arts; J. Seddon et al, Public Sculpture of Sussex, Liverpool, 2014, p. 107; Tate: ‘Olympia’ – catalogue entry; The Times, 6 January 1977, p. 14 (obit.); Who Was Who.

Terry Cavanagh, April 2024