Memorial sculpture group ‘to the memory of prisoners of war and victims of concentration camps 1914–1945’
Heritage Category: Listed Building
List Entry Number: 1431369
Date first listed: 19-Jan-2016
Statutory Address: Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, London, NW2
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Statutory Address: Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, London, NW2
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: Greater London Authority
District: Brent (London Borough)
Parish: Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference: TQ2204085979
Memorial sculpture group ‘to the memory of prisoners of war and victims of concentration camps 1914–1945’, c1967-69 by Fred Kormis, sited at Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill.
Reasons for Designation
Memorial sculpture group, ‘to the memory of prisoners of war and victims of concentration camps 1914–1945’, of c1967-69 by Fred Kormis, sited at Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Artistic interest: a powerful and moving sculptural group, exploring changing inner states through a spatial sequence of figures, with a well-composed setting; * Historic interest: a rare example of a memorial to prisoners of war and concentration camp victims, deriving poignancy from Kormis’ own experiences in a Siberian prisoner of war camp.
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 and the new towns 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.
The sculptor and medallist Fred Kormis (1897–1986) was born Fritz Kormis in Frankfurt, Germany to Czech-Jewish parents. At the age of 14 he became an apprentice in a decorative sculpture workshop. A scholarship to the Frankfurt Art School was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914, and Kormis was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army as his parents were deemed Austro-Hungarian subjects. Captured by the Russians the following year he was transferred to a Siberian prisoner of war camp. He escaped from the camp and returned to Frankfurt in 1920 and became a portrait sculptor. Kormis and his wife were Jewish and after Hitler came to power fled to Holland and then England in 1934.
In his lifetime Kormis was perhaps best known for a series of bronze portrait medallions, but ever since escaping from Siberia his major ambition was the realisation of a memorial to prisoners of war, later expanded to include the victims of concentration camps. In 1967 Kormis recalled his own experiences as a prisoner of war: 'First there is the numb shock of realizing you are a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. Then there is the dawning awareness of your predicament and the primitive conditions. The next phase is the thought of escape and freedom. After that many succumb to despair and a sense of hopelessness. Others overcome their dejection and manage to escape'.
Subsidised by a bequest from a relative in Germany, Kormis developed a series of figures, intending to install them on a bombsite, but no suitable site could be found. In 1967 Brent Council agreed to accept the memorial sculptures and identified Gladstone Park as an appropriate site, the exact location to be chosen by Kormis. The sculptural group was unveiled on 11 May 1969. Over time the condition of the sculpture deteriorated and in December 2003 they were seriously vandalised. They were repaired and conserved as part of a Heritage Lottery Funded restoration of Gladstone Park, and re-sited in their original position in September 2004.
Memorial sculpture group ‘to the memory of prisoners of war and victims of concentration camps 1914–1945’, c.1967-69 by Fred Kormis, sited at Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill.
This group comprises five fibreglass resin sculptures with bronze powder. Four male seated figures occupy a series of stepped platforms, with a fifth standing at the margin of the group. The platforms are clad in dark brindled brick paviours and surrounded by a cobbled surface of pebbles set into cement with a paviour border. The group is set against a sloping wall of shuttered reinforced concrete, painted white. A plaque on the retaining wall behind reads ‘TO THE MEMORY OF / PRISONERS OF WAR / AND VICTIMS OF / CONCENTRATION CAMPS / 1914–1945’.
Although the seated figures are arranged in contrasting postures they depict male figures of similar appearance, with swaddling-like wound strips of clothing, as if the same individual is shown at different states or conditions. Kormis described the sequence of figures as 'a five-chapter novel, each chapter describing a successive state of mind of internment: stupor after going into captivity; longing for freedom; fighting against gloom; hope lost; and hope again.' This suggests the sequence is meant to be read from left to right; the final standing figure, with arms gazed aloft and an upwards gazed, representing hope.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 9 February 2017.
Colloms, M. and Weindling, D 2013 ‘The sculptor Fred Kormis’, West Hampstead Life , accessed 28 October 2015 from http://westhampsteadlife.com/2013/08/07/the-sculptor-fred-kormis/5075
'Fred Kormis', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011, accessed 28 October 2015 from http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib4_1274354708
War Memorials Online, accessed 9 February 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/231664
War Memorials Register, accessed 5 November 2015 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/123
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed structures are 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 structures (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed structures for the purposes of the Act.
End of official listing