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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

David Wynne (1926–2014)

Sculptor born in Lyndhurst, Hampshire. He attended Stowe school, Buckinghamshire, joined the Royal Navy in 1944 and, after the war, studied zoology at Trinity College, Cambridge. However, both he and the dons realised he had little academic potential and, with their blessing, he forewent his exams to practice his art. He received early encouragement from Jacob Epstein who persuaded his father to buy him a studio. Wynne was self-taught, apart from a few lessons with Georg Ehrlich (for whom his future wife, Gilli, was then modelling) and three months learning to carve stone in Paul Landowski’s workshop in Paris. He held his first one-man show at the Leicester Galleries in 1955, finding and cultivating wealthy and loyal patrons from the start of his career. Wynne first achieved widespread attention with his LCC commission, Guy the Gorilla, 1960–61, for Crystal Palace Park. Despite his popular success, Wynne was never accepted by the art establishment and his head of Oscar Kokoschka, 1965, given to the Tate by a private benefactor remains in store. In 1964, he sculpted portrait heads of The Beatles, developing a friendship with them and particularly with George Harrison to whom he introduced the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (whose portrait head he had earlier modelled). Wynne executed portrait heads and busts of numerous other famous people including Queen Elizabeth II; Charles, Prince of WalesSir Yehudi Menuhin; and Sir Thomas Beecham. He designed the linked hands on the 1973 50p pieces that marked Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community and also the Silver Jubilee medal of 1977. His public sculptures including River God Tyne, 1968, Newcastle upon Tyne; Girl with a Dolphin, 1973, outside the Tower Hotel, Tower Bridge; Boy with a Dolphin, 1974, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea; The Messenger, 1981, Sutton; and a statue of Fred Perry, 1984, All England Club, Wimbledon. Wynne considered his Christ in Glory, 1985, for the front of Wells Cathedral, his most important commission; his most controversial is without doubt the brightly coloured Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Memorial Gates, 1992, at Hyde Park Corner, lambasted by critics but evidently loved by the royal family. He was appointed OBE in 1994. Wynne married in 1959, but his wife, Gilli, died of cancer in 1990; she had a son and a daughter from her first marriage and Wynne and she had two sons; the younger son, Roland, committed suicide in 1999 and Wynne’s stepson, Jonathan, died in a motorcycle accident in 2007.

Bibliography: T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 4–5, 38–41, 295–96; Daily Telegraph, 9 September 2014 (obit.); D. Elliott, Boy with a Dolphin. The Life and Work of David Wynne, London, 2010; The Guardian, 23 September 2014 (obit.); F. Lloyd et al, Public Sculpture of Outer South and West London, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 46–47, 68–70, 154, 164, 165–66, 181–82, 191, 312–13; D. Merritt and F. Greenacre, with K. Eustace, Public Sculpture of Bristol, Liverpool, 2011, p. 60; G.T. Noszlopy and F. Waterhouse, Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the Black Country, Liverpool, 2005, pp. 140–41; J. Stone (ed.), The Sculpture of David Wynne 1969–1974, London, 1975; J. Stone (ed.), The Sculpture of David Wynne 1974–1992, London, 1993; The Times, 15 September 2014 (obit.); P. Usherwood et al, Public Sculpture of North-East England, Liverpool, 2000, p. 94; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster. Volume 1, Liverpool, 2011, pp. 87–88, 367; D. White and E. Norman, Public Sculpture of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Liverpool, 2015, pp. 93–94.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022