Market Woman, High Street, junction with Station Road, Wallsend

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1437357

Date first listed: 02-Aug-2016

Statutory Address: Junction of High Street West and Station Road, Wallsend, NE28 8QS

Map

Ordnance survey map of Market Woman, High Street, junction with Station Road, Wallsend
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Location

Statutory Address: Junction of High Street West and Station Road, Wallsend, NE28 8QS

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

District: North Tyneside (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: NZ2990366386

Summary

Sculpture, 1966 by Hans Schwarz, commissioned by J Seymour Harris and Partners.

Reasons for Designation

Market Woman of 1966 by Hans Schwarz, commissioned by J Seymour Harris and Partners to stand in the contemporary Forum shopping centre precinct, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Aesthetic quality: an intriguing statue of a robust, female Roman-era peasant whose stoical pose contrasts with that of the flapping live hens balanced in a heavy basket on her head;

* Material: Schwarz uses bronze, a traditional material for statues of socially powerful figures, to depict a bare-foot, working-class woman, treating it in a deliberately rough-hand-finished way with patchy colouring, to both give a sense of age and question perceptions of the subject matter;

* Historic interest: in his depiction of an anonymous, lowly woman, Schwarz gives a more nuanced interpretation of the Roman history of Wallsend in which he draws attention to the subjugation of the local population by the Emperor Hadrian;

* Contribution to the public realm: as a good example of the commissioning of public artwork in the post-war era as a way of enlivening and bringing aesthetic interest into the public environment.

History

The sculpture was commissioned from Hans Schwarz by J Seymour Harris and Partners, developers of the Forum shopping centre which was built in 1966. The resulting bronze statue depicted a female Roman-era figure holding a basket containing chickens on her head; Wallsend stands at the east end of Hadrian’s Wall. Schwarz explained his thinking behind the sculpture in a letter to a local schoolgirl. He said that he was looking for a realism and wanted the woman ‘to appear as a tough, hardworking peasant, not a graceful girl’. He made a plea against conventional thought, urging her to think honestly and carefully about art. The finish was deliberately rough to give the work a hand-finished appearance, and also to give the impression of age. Schwarz objected to a romantic interpretation of sculpture, which he saw as inappropriate given its location, referring to ‘a Hadrian of grandeur, who in point of fact based his rule on subjugation of subject races’. His sentiment was not shared by the local community at the time who greeted its unveiling with a storm of criticism. Some regarded the sculpture as ‘shameful’ in its blunt portrayal of a working class woman. However, attitudes have softened over time and the sculpture has proved its resilience, remaining an integral feature of central Wallsend.

Hans Schwarz (1922-2003) was an Austrian Jewish émigré who was forced to flee Vienna to escape from the rise of Hitler; his father died in Auschwitz. Aged only 16 when he arrived in England, he was interned as an enemy alien. On his release Schwarz trained at Birmingham Collage of Art. He then worked as a freelance illustrator until 1964 when he became a full-time painter and sculptor. As well as sculpture, Schwarz worked in a wide variety of media, oil, acrylic, watercolour, and even household paint. His paintings are found in many collections; his most frequently seen work is probably a portrait of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery.

The sculpture was originally sited on a low brick base, but was moved to its present location in a flower bed to one side of the shopping precinct when the area was redeveloped in 1993.

Details

Sculpture, 1966 by Hans Schwarz, commissioned by J Seymour Harris and Partners.

DESCRIPTION: the sculpture is cast in bronze and is green-black in colour. It stands on a square, bronze base, now set in a flowerbed. The statue itself depicts a bare-foot, female figure from Roman times wearing a long robe reaching down to her calves with sleeves covering her arms and a shawl wrapped round her head covering her hair. She stares straight ahead and her right arm is raised to balance a large circular, woven basket on her head. The basket contains four live hens which lean out over the edge of the basket.

Sources

Books and journals
Usherwood, P, Beach, J, Morris, C, Public Sculpture of North-East England, (2000), 213
Websites
Hans Schwarz obituary, accessed 06/07/2016 from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/hans-schwarz-36602.html

End of official listing