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Controversial WWI Memorial frieze revealed for first time in 20 years

21 Mar 2014

On 31 March The Hepworth Wakefield revealed for the first time in nearly 20 years a controversial, critically acclaimed World War One memorial frieze to launch the first fundraising campaign – I’m Yours.

No Man’s Land, 1919-20 by Yorkshire artist Charles Sargeant Jagger is part of the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection.

The fragile low relief presents a stark vision of trench warfare and local media were invited to see the frieze for the first time in almost two decades before the public can view it as part of a new exhibition by contemporary artist Toby Ziegler which opens at the gallery in September, as part of this year’s WW1 centenary commemorations.

Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield said: “The former Wakefield Art Gallery acquired Jagger’s original plaster frieze through publicly raised funds in 1936. Nearly 80 years later, as part of memorialising the centenary of World war One, we hope the public will again choose to support this pivotal powerful work and pledge funds towards our vital programme of conservation and digitisation of the collection. Until June 2015, The Hepworth Wakefield can double the value of all new donations it receives through the Arts Council England, Catalyst Arts funding programme. There has never been a better time to donate and make your valuable support go so much further in helping us protect and grow our inspirational collection for future generations to benefit from.”

Frances Guy, Head of Collections and Exhibitions added: “Charles Sargeant Jagger was one of Britain’s foremost war memorial sculptors and this frieze is indicative of the world-class collection we have here in Wakefield. The former Wakefield Art Gallery adopted an ambitious collecting policy to nurture a wide public understanding of contemporary art. The collection comprises works by the leading artists of the time, who have since become synonymous with shaping Modern British art. They featured in an ambitious exhibitions programme and I’m Yours will help The Hepworth Wakefield to continue this vision to provide our visitors with the experience of an outstanding art collection that is central to what we display here and to all our learning programmes.”

During his short lifetime, Yorkshire-born Charles Sargeant Jagger (b.1885 Kilnhurst, near Rotherham) was celebrated for the war memorial commissions he produced following his active service in World War One. Many of his most famous works are in London, including the recently restored Royal Artillery Memorial, 1921-5 at Hyde Park Corner and the Great Western Railway War Memorial, 1922 in Paddington Railway Station. Charles Sargeant Jagger referred to this frieze as the best example of his wartime work.

A bronze cast of Jagger’s frieze is now being exhibited as part of the new collection displays at Tate Britain with an edition also in London’s Imperial War Museum collection. Conspicuously the inscription taken from female war poet Beatrice Brice-Miller’s poem, To the Vanguard in Wakefield’s plaster prototype: ‘Oh little mighty Force that stood for England/That, with your bodies for a livings hield/guarded her slow awaking’ is absent from the subsequent bronze casts. Why this inscription was removed remains a mystery. It is possible that Jagger was advised about, or concerned by, the provocative nature of the phrase and any possible controversy it might have caused.

This September visitors to The Hepworth Wakefield will be able to see the memorial frieze close-up in Yorkshire in its original, pre-conserved state as part of a new exhibition by contemporary British artist, Toby Ziegler.

Unusually, visitors will be able to walk around the relief and view the rarely exposed framework and construction of the frieze. A monumental aluminium sculpture of a dismembered foot, measuring 6 feet high will be at the centre of the exhibition, a direct reference to the human cost of war, depicted so powerfully in Jagger’s extraordinary frieze. In contrast to the ‘mud and flesh’ qualities of plaster as a material, Ziegler uses computer- aided 3D design to create his sculptures. The exhibition will also feature a state-of-the-art 3D printer, to produce miniature replicas of his striking silver centrepiece.

To support I’m Yours or to find out how The Hepworth Wakefield will use your valuable donation please visit www.hepworthwakefield.org/im-yours/ or telephone 01924 247 365. Until June 2015 The Hepworth Wakefield can match all new donations through Arts Council England, Catalyst Arts funding.

Toby Ziegler and Charles Sargeant Jagger opens to the public on Friday 26 September 2014 until Sunday 25 January 2015. To coincide with this new exhibition, Toby Ziegler will be presenting a new commission at The Calder, the gallery’s new contemporary art space, housed within a 19th century former textiles mill opposite The Hepworth Wakefield.