Bronze sculpture ‘The Striding Man’ boxed up and dumped in a corner

BY TOBY PORTER toby@slpmedia.co.uk­

A hunched figure stands in a corner of the grounds of a school, behind a wooden wall and somewhat the worse for wear.

He has just one arm. Parents will regularly ask about his welfare. But no one can be absolutely sure whether he needs help – or if trying to help him is just going to cause further problems.

This 6ft tall hunk of humanity, though, in a corner of the Charter School in North Dulwich is not some suspect homeless man in need of a bowl of soup and some TLC.

It’s a sculpture by one of Australia’s most reputable modernist artists, Oliffe Richmond, who has eight prints in the Tate Modern.

The Striding Man by Oliffe Richmond.

The bronze creation, called Striding Man, was installed in the school in Red Post Hill in 1962 by London County Council (LCC) as part of its bid to bring art to the masses.

Richmond was heavily influenced by Alberto Giacometti – whose piece Walking Man sold in 2010 for £70 million.

He worked for Henry Moore, taking over from him as a teacher at the Chelsea School of Art. The piece was commissioned by the LCC for £1,200 – and the artist was paid £100.

Richmond’s Striding Man II is in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland, who date that work to 1960-61.

But another Striding Man, auctioned in 2012, and dated 1970, seven years before Richmond died, is valued by artvalue.com at £3,000.

Charter School’s piece was given a Grade II listing in 1998 by Historic England. Historic England’s 1998 listing of the sculpture says this is one of the outstanding pieces commissioned by the London County Council, the leading patron of public art in the period 1945-65.

They say it’s a tall, stooping figure that displays different qualities from different angles, with its claw-like feet, knotted and elongated legs, hunched back and heavy burden.

The tension of movement caught in stasis recalls Rodin’s headless L’Homme qui Marche, while the battered, vulnerable form and striated surface is reminiscent of the work of Giacometti.

The school, called William Penn Secondary School at the time, closed in 1999. Charter School was opened there in 2000 but it is not known if this piece is owned by the GLA, Southwark council or the new school.

Former pupil Damien Farrell suggested one of the school’s former teachers, ex-Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Tiswas host Chris Tarrant, could fund its renovation.

Mr Farrell said: “It’s frailness, if true, is probably due to it’s being moved – there are grants available for listed structures. “Why couldn’t it be encased in a perplex protective but viewable case?

“Because it was unappreciated, unloved, and a costly inconvenience. It’s frail, not because a bronze deteriorates by the elements or the human hand, but because it was dug up without due care.

“This artist has eight lithographs/prints in the Tate, highlighting his importance.

“Yet possibly his greatest work has been abandoned, while the mark II is still alive in Holland, exposed to the elements, exposing its beauty.”

Charter’s head of external affairs Shalene Varcoe said: “It was a nice sculpture to have outside the school and we would prefer not to have it in a wooden box.

“It should be on display somewhere. But we cannot start to make those decisions until its ownership is clarified.

“There has been wear and tear to the statue so we have boarded it up to prevent further damage – and in case it is unsafe for the students. “And if the school does own it, funding would be a key issue.”

8 thoughts on “Bronze sculpture ‘The Striding Man’ boxed up and dumped in a corner

  • 24th July 2018 at 2:18 pm
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    I never thought that I’d see or hear about the “Striding Man”, the last time I see it was when I was at William Penn from 1967 – 1972. I’m unsure whether us students at that time really appreciated, understood this piece of Art. As I recall, we used to use the Striding Man as a place to meet or play or even sit and have our lunch. Poor old thing it is now, left in a box in the corner with no attention.

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    • 18th August 2018 at 9:50 pm
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      I was there the day it arrived in 1962. As a William Penn pupil at the time, myself and many other lads were not impressed by it. The story we heard was LCC money had been found to either pay for a sculpture or build a swimming pool for the school. It goes without saying as young lads what option we would have preferred!
      Such is life, but it should be restored and placed in Sunray Gardens or Dulwich Park rather than boxed up in a corner at the Charter School.

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  • 24th September 2018 at 8:16 am
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    I think someone must rescue it! May be not greatly loved but so well known!

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  • 24th September 2018 at 10:22 am
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    Oh what a shame. I hope someone rescues it. It was such an iconic feature of the school.

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  • 5th October 2018 at 7:09 pm
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    As a former pupil, I’d like to buy it. How Much?

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  • 8th October 2018 at 12:37 pm
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    I too was there on the day The Striding Man was delivered. I will never forget the look on the Headmasters face as it was uncovered. He was watching from a walkway above the quad, and as the cover came of, he lowered his face into his hands and shook his head

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  • 2nd November 2018 at 2:57 pm
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    I went to William Penn and we were taught that we must do our best in life,this statue was placed in view of our main square making sure we would have to see it every day

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  • 11th November 2018 at 11:53 am
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    I used to meet my two best friends at the statue every morning , Michael Clarke and errol white.
    I attended William penn aka billy biro from 1973 – 1976 .
    I had to take a day off school with the permission of the head staff to be in a film called the black windmill starring Michael caine.
    interestingly , some people came to film the statue from an arts college I think and they filmed me and my two friends meeting at the statue first thing in the morning, would love to track that down if anyone knows where it might be.
    it is true that the school could have had a swimming pool, but to be honest I was quite fond of the old striding man,
    my name is Patrick doyle

    Reply

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