From the Walls of London

From the Walls of London

An iconic fibreglass sculpture from pioneering British artist, William Mitchell is set to feature in our upcoming 17 January Design sale. 

5 January 2023

The eagle sculpture still hangs in a garden in North London where Robert Double, partner at the Frederick Gibberd Partnership, lived for many years. It was commissioned for Barclays Bank, Bletchley Station branch in Milton Keynes in 1965. The building was designed by Frederick Gibberd, showing Mitchell’s long affiliation with the practice. Apparently, the directors of the bank did not approve of it at the time. Double then had it mounted as a focal point at the end of a pergola terrace, he built in his garden.

William Mitchell (1925-2020), a wall sculpture for Barclays Bank, Bletchley Station branch

William Mitchell (1925-2020), a wall sculpture for Barclays Bank, Bletchley Station branch £1,500 - £2,000

William Mitchell was born in 1925.  A serious illness in his early years meant he had extensive periods in hospitals and convalescent homes and received little schooling.

In 1938, Mitchell was apprenticed to an established London firm of decorators, where he was taught the basics of the trade, and developed a taste for the history and tradition of the craft.

A three-year period of service in the Royal Navy followed, painting scenes and panoramic views for the NAAFI, refurbishing and decorating their clubs and canteens across the world.

After studying at The Southern College of Art in Portsmouth, he went on to the Royal College of Art in London between 1953 and 1957, where he studied woods, metals and plastics, and won both a Silver Medal and the Abbey Award, entitling him to a fourth, postgraduate, year at the British School in Rome.

On his return from Italy, he worked as a designer at the London County Council, designing and producing decorative works for the many new developments then springing up across the city. His appointment as a Design Consultant to the LCC enabled Mitchell to work with some of the UK's most respected builders, architects and engineers of the time, including Sir Frederick Gibberd and Sir Basil Spence

From the 1950s, Mitchell produced work for a wide variety of clients. His initial appointment at the London County Council allowed him to set up his own company in the early 1960s, a company which at one point employed over forty skilled craftsmen and artists.

Mitchell gained a reputation for reliability during this period, and this would help him develop a style that became known throughout Britain and internationally, with his work appearing on schools, public housing, public subways, civic gardens, shopping centres and religious buildings.

A past example of his work, 'Eagles', sold in our February 2019 Modern Bristish and 20th Century Art sale for £1,105.

William Mitchell (b.1925) EAGLES - 'AND THE FIRST BEAST WAS LIKE A LION AND THE SECOND BEAST LIKE A CALF; AND THE THIRD BEAST HAD A FACE AS A MAN AND THE FOURTH BEAST WAS AS A FLYING EAGLE

A past example of William Mitchell's work, EAGLES £1,105

Mitchell's interest in experimentation, resulted in a wide range of projects that varied in both finish and style, and which included the use of recycled timber and old furniture to create mosaics; the use of recycled glass, melted down and recast; the use of poured resin and polyurethane to add colour and the use of contemporary construction materials such as GRP (Glass reinforced plastic) and GRC (Glass reinforced concrete) to create large scale panelled installations. He was one of the few artists to investigate Faircrete, a John Laing developed concrete product that could be carved whilst still wet, retaining these shapes once dry.

In the 1980s Mitchell went to work in Qatar for the Royal Families designing and building both the Qatar Zoo and the extensive Doha Corniche waterfront promenade. He also worked for the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco, where he was responsible for designing and constructing many of the decorative panelling and sculptural installations at several stations across the system.

Mitchell spent many years as artistic design adviser to Mohammed Al Fayed and was responsible for the overall design and for the carving and modelling of the panels for the Egyptian Hall and the Egyptian escalator at Harrods.

Mitchell was a member of the Design Advisory Board, Hammersmith College of Art and Trent Polytechnic and the Concrete Society, and was a regular on the construction lecture circuit, both in his home country and abroad (especially the U.S.), being described as a ‘doyen of British muralists’.

He passed away in January 2020 at the age of 94.

The sculpture will not be avalible for viewing at our Stansted Mountfitchet saleroom. For further information or viewing, please contact John Black johnblack@sworder.co.uk 


 

To view more lots in our upcoming 17 January Design sale, click here.

 

 


 

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