Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz)
List Entry Summary
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
Name: Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz)
List entry Number: 1430235
Darley House, Vauxhall Gardens Estate, Laud Street, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HW
The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (which comprises the relief ‘Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz’, the bricks which immediately surround it and the concrete plinth) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.
The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District Type: London Borough
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first listed: 19-Jan-2016
Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Building
Sculptural relief in coloured concrete: ‘Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz)’, 1949 by Peter Laszlo Peri. Mounted on the stair tower of Darley House. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that Darley House, to which the relief is attached, is not of special architectural or historic interest.
Reasons for Designation
Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz), 1949, by Peter Laszlo Peri, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Artistic interest: as an early example of the naturalistic social art of this Hungarian Jewish émigré artist; * Historic interest: as a rare example of LCC post-war public art in the context of social housing, commemorating children killed in the Blitz; * Materials: for its innovative use of coloured concrete as an artistic medium; * Artistic contribution to the public realm: for its decorative value to the estate, located on the edge of Vauxhall Gardens.
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 London and the counties of Hertfordshire 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 language 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.
The Hungarian-born Jewish artist Peter Laszlo Peri was commissioned by the London County Council (LCC), probably after some lobbying on Peri’s part, to produce three reliefs for housing estates in South Lambeth. The earliest, ‘Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz)’ was for Darley House, built in 1949 as a southern addition to the late-1930s Vauxhall Gardens Estate. The two later reliefs, probably dating to 1951-2, were on the nearby South Lambeth Estate: ‘Mother and Children Playing' on Horton House and ‘Boys Playing Football’ on Wareham House.
Peter Laszlo Peri (1899-1967) was born Ladislas Weisz in Budapest into a large working-class Jewish family. Articled as a lawyer’s clerk, he developed a passion for art and communist politics. After attending evening classes in art and an apprenticeship as a stone mason, he toured with an agit-prop (a highly politicised and leftist) travelling theatre in Czechoslovakia in 1919 when the Hungarian Soviet Republic of Béla Kun, which he supported, was overthrown. Seeking political refuge in Vienna and Paris, he eventually settled in Berlin in 1920. Joining the Der Sturm group of avant-garde artists, he acquired a reputation as a leading Constructivist sculptor. Peri worked for the city’s Architect’s Department between 1924 and 1927 with a view to becoming an architect. In 1928 he returned to sculpture but changed to a realist style. Following the rise of the Nazis he left Germany in 1933 and settled in England, moving to Hampstead in 1935 and becoming a naturalised citizen in 1939. On arrival Peri had joined the English section of the Marxist artists group, Artists International. He pioneered the use of concrete as a medium for expressive sculptures and came to specialise in architectural reliefs in coloured concrete, developing ‘Pericrete’, a mixture of concrete with polyester resin and metallic powders. In 1936 he was awarded his first major commission, by the Cement and Concrete Association, for a decorative panel of workmen laying concrete in their boardroom. The following year the Board invited Peri to stage a solo show ‘London Life in Concrete’ to promote the use of coloured concrete as an artistic medium. In 1951 he created ‘The Sunbathers', a sculptural mural (or ‘horizontal relief’ since it jutted out from the wall) for the Festival of Britain and subsequently received numerous commissions from educational authorities, notably in Leicestershire and Warwickshire.
Sculptural relief in coloured concrete: ‘Following the Leader (Memorial to the Children Killed in the Blitz)’, 1949 by Peter Laszlo Peri. Mounted on the stair tower of Darley House (not listed).
The relief is of red ochre coloured concrete laid over an expanded metal mesh and is 4.73m tall and 1.65m wide. It depicts a naturalistic group of six children, linked by their hands, cascading down the wall. The group spring from a narrow two-stage concrete plinth which stands proud of the wall. According to the catalogue of a Peri exhibition at the Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery in 1991, the composition was originally framed by dark coloured pointing to the yellow stock brick, to make it stand out from the rest of the surface, but this has since been replaced with standard mortar.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 16 June 2017.
Books and journals
Cavanagh , Terry (Author), Public Sculpture of South London, (2007), 117-120
ODNB entry - Peter Laszlo Peri, accessed 16 September 2015 from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/64507?docPos=1
War Memorials Register, accessed 16 June 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/72466
National Grid Reference: TQ3061878241
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End of official listing