Hammersmith based artist makes first memorial statue of Queen Elizabeth II

Image: Hywel Pratley and his statue of Queen Elizabeth II in the gardens of Oakham public library

Hywel Pratley’s sculpture was unveiled in Oakham, Rutland on Sunday

An artist from Hammersmith has made the first memorial statue of Queen Elizabeth II to be commissioned since her death in September 2022.

Sculptor Hywel Pratley, whose studio is beside Ravenscourt Park, was commissioned by the Lord-Lieutenant of Rutland, Dr Sarah Furness, to create a statue for the library gardens in Oakham, the county town of Rutland.

The gardens are a focal point in the town, as they are the starting point for a number of long-distance footpaths and guided walks. The statue, which stands seven foot tall and is made in bronze, was unveiled on Sunday 21 April, the late Queen’s birthday, to general acclaim.

Image: The sculpture being made in Hywel’s workshop; image from video by Jules Fuller

Hywel spoke to The Chiswick Calendar about what it was like to be given such a prestigious commission.

“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster,” he told us. “I’m currently sitting in the bar of the hotel opposite the Library Gardens, watching a steady stream of people walking by looking at it, taking pictures of it and taking selfies with it. There were thousands of people at the unveiling yesterday and there has been a huge amount of press.”

Image: “I like to start the process by getting the profile right, then you’ve got a trusted foundation”; image from video by Jules Fuller

A high-stakes undertaking

Creating a public sculpture is a high-stakes undertaking, especially of someone who is so well known and loved. People feel no qualms about expressing their opprobrium if they don’t like what the artist produces.

“I feel that sculptures should elicit a strong, visceral reaction, hopefully good, not bad, they should provoke an emotional reaction, but people feel very at liberty to voice their opinions about public sculptures, and they do say some absolutely awful things.

“I’m quite sensitive, and a friend of mine said to me: ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ but I went ahead and I’m very happy.”

 

Image: The sculpture being made in Hywel’s workshop; image from video by Jules Fuller

The sculpture is set on a stone plinth with bronze corgis leaping around the base.

‘Corgis yap their approval as statue of Queen Elizabeth II unveiled’ read the Daily Telegraph headline … ‘hailed as a fitting tribute to the “Mother of our nation”.’

‘Everyone says the same thing as ‘beautiful’ new statue of late Queen Elizabeth unveiled’ wrote the Express … ‘Fans are gushing over a special added touch. The eye-catching statue depicts a young Queen Elizabeth flowing in regal robes but it also features her three beloved corgis at her heels and fans think this extra detail is a sweet touch.’

Image: The sculpture being made in Hywel’s workshop; images from video by Jules Fuller

A sculpture that captures the Queen’s “benevolence, her power and her beauty”

Hywel was not trying to create a “Mme Tussauds likeness” but is pleased that people are taking the stature as a whole and see it as recognisable.

He wanted to create a “harmonious” representation of the Queen, he told us, capturing “her benevolence, her power and her beauty”.

“I had so many images of her up on the wall in my studio and they all look different, depending on the occasion, her mood, her age. There are a thousand different decisions to be made, based on a thousand different looks.”

He settled on the stamp image as being the best-known version of the Queen’s face on which to base the features.

“Some sculptors start with a ball” he told us. “I like to start the process by getting the profile right, then you’ve got a trusted foundation.”

Images: The sculpture being delivered; images from video by Jules Fuller

Not only is this the first memorial statue of the Queen and the first public statue in the county of Rutland, but it is Hywel’s largest sculpture to date.

He trained at the The Masbro Centre, Shepherds Bush, and the Florence Academy of Art, where he now teaches sculpture. The torsos and portrait busts you can see on his website are quite stunning.

The commission was intended as “a long-lasting way to mark our affection, respect, and the 70 years of public service that made up the longest reign in British history” said Dr Furness.

Hywel Pratley was chosen for his talent in figurative work and his experience in the field of bronze casting.  Jules Fuller has made this video about the process of creating the statue.