Declaration by Phillip King


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1430096

Date first listed: 19-Jan-2016

Statutory Address: Leicestershire County Council, Beaumanor Hall, Beaumanor Drive, Woodhouse, Loughborough, LE12 8TX


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Statutory Address: Leicestershire County Council, Beaumanor Hall, Beaumanor Drive, Woodhouse, Loughborough, LE12 8TX

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Leicestershire

District: Charnwood (District Authority)

Parish: Woodhouse

National Grid Reference: SK5375315630


Declaration, sculpture, 1961, by Phillip King.

Reasons for Designation

Declaration by Phillip King is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: as a seminal work by the accomplished and internationally renowned sculptor Phillip King (b.1934); * Artistic interest: as a bold and confident departure from the figurative tradition, and the expression of new abstract forms, ideas and materials in the post-war period; * Material interest: constructed of green-coloured cement and steel, the sculptor made unconventional, modern and artistic use of what had hitherto been considered to be conventional building materials; * Contribution to the public realm: as a strong example of the pioneering purchase and commissioning of artworks by Leicestershire Education Authority for exhibition at schools and the public realm in the post-war era.


The period after 1945 saw a shift from commemorative sculpture and architectural enrichment to the idea of public sculpture as a primarily aesthetic contribution to the public realm. Sculpture was commissioned for new housing, schools, universities and civic set pieces, with the counties of Hertfordshire, London and Leicestershire leading the way in public patronage. Thus public sculpture could be an emblem of civic renewal and social progress. By the late C20 however, patronage was more diverse and included corporate commissions and Arts Council-funded community art. The ideology of enhancing the public realm through art continued, but with divergent means and motivation.

Visual languages ranged from the abstraction of Victor Pasmore and Phillip King to the figurative approach of Elisabeth Frink and Peter Laszlo Peri, via those such as Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth who bridged the abstract/representational divide. The post-war decades are characterised by the exploitation of new – often industrial – materials and techniques including new welding and casting techniques, plastics and concrete, while kinetic sculpture and ‘ready mades’ (using found objects) demonstrate an interest in composite forms. Phillip King was born near Carthage, Tunisia in 1934, and moved to North London with his French mother and English father after the Second World War. As a bilingual young man King undertook his national service in Paris in the 1950s, where he sketched Greek sculpture in the Louvre. On his return to England King read modern languages at Christ’s College, Cambridge (1955-7), before enrolling at St Martin’s School of Art, London (1957-8), where he then taught from 1959 to 1978. King began working as an assistant to Henry Moore in 1958, during which time his work remained firmly rooted in the figurative tradition. In 1959 King visited the Documenta II exhibition at Kassel, Germany and the sculpture of Constantin Brâncu?i and the abstract paintings of the leading contemporary American artists, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and Franz Kline had a great impact on the young sculptor. King’s apprenticeship with Moore came to an end in 1960, when King was awarded the Boise scholarship, and travelled to Greece to study ancient sculpture and architecture.

On his return to England in 1960 King destroyed all the work then in his studio and started afresh, giving his workspace a general clean-up and symbolic coat of white paint. He began a series of drawings, the results of which included two seminal sculptures: Window Piece (1960-1, concrete), and Declaration (1961, cement and steel). Of Declaration, King is recorded as saying: ‘I had to get special tools for Declaration because it was made of green-coloured concrete and marble chippings. I called it Declaration because in a sense it was a manifesto piece for me. I suddenly established new ideas about fundamental forms and sculpture being off the pedestal and extending on the ground and stretching out. I was also interested in repetition and symmetry.’ A neat, symmetrical row of circle/square/cross/cross/square/circle, cast in dark green cement and strung along a central pole, Declaration is generally taken as a statement of a new focus and confidence. In his monograph on the sculptor, Tim Hilton has suggested that Declaration was ‘probably the first time in British sculpture that repetition of non-organic forms has served as a principle of the sculpture’s composition.’

An identical artist’s copy was also executed in 1961 and remains in the collection of the artist. The sculpture was exhibited in Madrid and Bilbao in 1961, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1965, 1967-8 and 1980, Kröller-Müller Museum Otterlo, Holland in 1974, and at the Hayward Gallery, London in 1981. Declaration was purchased by Leicestershire Education Authority in 1966 through the LEA’s buildings capital scheme, and was originally sited at Stonehill High School, Birstall. A photograph of the sculpture at Stonehill High School shows the sculpture exhibited on a raised rectangular plinth with slanted sides. It is unlikely that the artist designed this plinth, as he is not known to have employed plinths in his other works, preferring them to stretch across the gallery floor. At some stage in the 1990s Leicestershire Education Authority relocated the sculpture from Stonehill High School to the south garden of nearby Beaumanor Hall, where it was exhibited level with the grass on cement slabs. Although Declaration was originally executed in dark green cement, the colour has entirely washed away over time.

King began working with fibreglass in 1962, crafting his famous Rosebud. During his time as a lecturer at Bennington College in Vermont, USA King was encouraged by David Smith to work in steel, and completed his first steel sculpture in 1965. Since 1968, King’s reputation at home and abroad has been cemented by major retrospectives at the Hayward Gallery (1981), the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (1997), and at the Forte di Belvedere, Florence (1997) – the first such honour for a British artist since Henry Moore. He received a CBE in 1974, and was elected Professor of Sculpture of the Royal College of Art, London from 1980 to 1990. King was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1999 and retired from this position in 2004 to concentrate on his own sculpture, exhibiting at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London from 2006 to 2008. The Tate Britain recently celebrated King’s 80th birthday by exhibiting six of his works from the 1960s (2014-15).


Declaration, sculpture, 1961, by Phillip King.

MATERIALS: The geometric shapes are crafted from cement incorporating marble chippings, and are strung on a perpendicular steel rod. The sculpture stands on a paved section of fifteen square cement paving slabs (introduced c1995 when the sculpture was moved from Stonehill High School).

EXTERIOR: A steel pole runs horizontally through the centres of a series of six vertically deployed, symmetrically arranged, simple geometric forms in cast concrete embedded with marble chippings. The two outermost forms are circles, inwards of these are two squares and, at the centre, two saltire crosses. The sculpture measures 84cm in height, 208cm in width, and 84cm in depth. It is located on the lawn south-west of Beaumanor Hall, which is not open to the public and therefore the sculpture is not immediately viewable without permission.

The sculpture is in a fair condition, although the square slabs have chunks missing from the corners and the colour, originally dark green, is now grey. The geometric-shaped slabs, which were originally regularly spaced along the steel rod, are now irregularly spaced, and the east end of the steel rod appears out of position.

The sculpture stands on fifteen square-plan cement paving slabs, which lie level with the lawn. This paving is not original to the design of the sculpture and is architecturally modest, so it is therefore excluded from the listing.


Books and journals
Strachan, W G, Open Air Sculpture in Britain: a Comprehensive Guide, (1984), 148, 262, 286-7
British Council, 'Phillip King', accessed 10 September 2015 from
Public Monuments & Sculpture Association, 'Declaration' , accessed 10 September 2015 from
The Guardian, ‘Phillip King: ‘sculpture is the art of the invisible’, Friday 5 December 2014, accessed 10 September 2015 from

End of official listing