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.”

18 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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      • 17th January 2019 at 7:13 pm
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        Yes I well remember the day it arrived, I was in Faraday House at the time. [ John Harris] our housemaster, and we all know what he was up to during the his off duty downtime…. the price £1800 a fortune then. Mr Flemming our french teacher called it an absolute Monstroscity. as for the others, Mr Dennis, Mr Osbourne, Mr Given etc and my mum who worked in the School Kitchen, well speechless comes to mind. Everybody thought it going to be a statue of William Penn, as regards the swimming pool, James Allen’s girls school wouldn’t part with the land the LCC needed. do you remember the root march to Dulwich Baths and to Ewell for sports, on the coach. The Penn was a very good school, such a pity it went down and down. as regards the S/Man, Flog it to Tate Modern.

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        • 2nd August 2019 at 3:42 pm
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          thats a great idea, tate modern

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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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    • 10th November 2019 at 8:58 pm
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      Restore him and home in the tate gallery

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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

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  • 21st April 2019 at 12:27 pm
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    I taught at William Penn from Sept 1966 to July 1994 in the PE Dept. Had some good times with some great colleagues and many great boys. Still alive and living in Somerset!

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    • 6th July 2019 at 12:28 pm
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      Yes, I remember you, i was at penn from 74 to 79, Mr Sibley was my form tutor, i think he has passed now.

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      • 2nd August 2019 at 3:21 pm
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        i remember you Mark Willis,
        you might not remember me, i left in 76 but you will probably remember some of my class mates ,
        errol white
        michael clarke
        tungi papoola
        patrick carte

        surnames ? …. powell and crossley

        teachers ,, peter tancred was pe teacher and held world discus throwing champion at that time
        mr davis also pe teacher
        mr burton
        mr gupta
        mr marlbrough .. french teacher

        i was in 1pr,2pr,3pr class
        we was all banned from the shop up the road, the sign in the shop window said ; no william penn boys allowed in this shop.
        we had our sports day at crystal palace and we were escorted all the way by cops and plain clothes.
        did you go to france on that trip, i did,
        it were in boloigne for the day, on the way back penn boys were letting off fire works on the train.
        i remember seeing desk hurtling down from the upper levels of the big building , big pile of them on the ground . lol
        i had a day off to be in a film called the black windmill with michael caine, i lived on Lordship Lane at that time,
        do you remember any of the names i mentioned, as i say i left in 1976 i was in 3rd form
        and how are you ?

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      • 2nd August 2019 at 3:24 pm
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        oh yeah that name i mentioned was Earl Powell, just remembered

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    • 31st July 2019 at 6:50 am
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      You taught me John,we also went on a few skiing trips great fun and memories
      i also played cricket after i left school with Pete Sheldon
      how time flies indeed i now live in Singapore been here for nearly 10 years

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  • 18th October 2019 at 12:55 am
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    I was at William Penn from 1961-1966. I remember being told that the thin legs and heavy battered body of the statue were supposed to represent William Penn’s battles against adversity. I also remember that we referred to the statue as, “The Blob.”

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