Napoleon Garden

Napoleon Garden is a small discreet part of Holland Park which has been used to showcase sculpture throughout since the nineteenth century. Since the first modern piece, The Maid by Eric Gill first appeared, Napoleon Garden has provided an inspiring setting for contemporary sculpture, where residents and visitors can take time out from the bustling city to explore and enjoy new work in an historic space.

Over the years the garden, which takes its name from a bust of Napoleon by the Venetian sculptor Canova, has celebrated artists such as David Nash RA and Bryan Kneale RA, who have both exhibited works there.

In 2012, the Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS) launched a programme to celebrate the contribution of women to sculpture in a series of exhibitions of contemporary work in the historic space of the Napoleon Garden. The partnership between the Council and the Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS) epitomises the strong commitment of both organisations to promote excellent art in appropriate public settings.

To celebrate the fifth year of the partnership, we are delighted to present Meridiana (sundial in Italian), a work by the American sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld, which was unveiled in the Napoleon Garden on Wednesday 27 April 2016.

Blumenfeld is a renowned sculptor working in Britain and Italy.  She has spent many months carving the sculpture Meridiana from bronze specifically for the garden in which she has spent many contemplative hours during her life. Although not intended as an accurate predictor of time, its shadow will change with each hour and season and acts as a call to visitors to consider the shadow they cast on the world.

About Helaine Blumenfeld

At the beginning of her career, Blumenfeld worked as an assistant to the Russian Cubist sculptor Ossip Zadkine in his Paris studio. Such was the idiosyncratic nature of the sculptural style Zadkine evolved over his long career that critics coined the term ‘the Genre Zadkine’ to describe his work. Today, the same might be said of Helaine Blumenfeld, whose singular vision has brought us the ‘Genre Blumenfeld’, a style forged from a sculptural grammar that is entirely her own.

Finding and developing a unique creative voice in sculpture is not as straightforward as one might imagine. The task is all the more difficult when working in demanding materials such as clay, stone and bronze, which require skills that can only be acquired through decades of persistent experimentation and rigorous discipline. And let us not assume that traditional approaches to making sculpture – the modelling of clay, the carving of marble, understanding the complexities of bronze-founding, and so on – present purely manual challenges that an apprenticeship can bestow. In fact, they demand the union of hand and eye, the harmonious marriage of skill and imagination, sensitivity to both concept and craft.

Promenade, by Sir Anthony Caro on the North Lawn