Shropshire Star

Artist’s bomb victim sculpture sells for £37,000 at Shrewsbury auction

A poignant and thought-provoking bronze sculpture sold for more than £30,000 at a fine art auction house in Shrewsbury.

Fine art specialist Abigail Molenaar with the bronze sculpture by celebrated Irish artist Frederick Edward McWilliam which sold for £37,000.

The work by celebrated Irish artist Frederick Edward McWilliam of a female bomb victim during The Troubles in Northern Ireland sold for £37,000.

Competitive bidding saw the 61cm high sculpture, from McWilliam’s ‘Women of Belfast’ series, surpass its pre-sale estimate of £25,000 to £30,000 at Halls Fine Art’s successful fine art, antiques and jewellery auction.

Consigned to the auction by a Midlands art collector, the sculpture sold to an art collector in Wales who edged out bidders from Ireland and Italy.

“I am delighted that the sculpture has achieved such a good price for the vendor and that she is going to a new home in Wales,” said Halls’ fine art specialist Abigail Molenaar.

“It was exciting to sell the sculpture because I have spent so much time with her since we first met in the spring. Despite being a harrowing subject, it’s a captivating and absorbing sculpture.

“Each of the figurines from the ‘Women of Belfast’ series, created in the 1970s, features a female victim in a different pose, being violently blown through the air.

“The figure we sold portrays a woman fighting to remain standing, her head bowed, limbs at unnatural angles and her clothing blown forcefully backwards by the sheer force of the explosion.

“The significance of these sculptures is no less poignant today, exemplifying the innumerable innocents caught up in modern conflicts worldwide. Each of the figurines from the series features a female victim in a different pose, being violently blown through the air.”

Born in Bainbridge, County Down, McWilliam (1909-92) was heavily influenced by childhood memories of violent clashes that occurred in his hometown, including seeing his own father treating a young child who had been shot in crossfire.

His career brought him to London, where he spent most of his adult life, but some of his most acclaimed works focused upon his reactions to events in Ireland during the heights of The Troubles.

‘The Women of Belfast’ sculptures were inspired by the victims of a particularly brutal bombing of the Abercorn Restaurant in central Belfast on March 4, 1972. The venue was packed with diners at the time a bomb exploded at 4.30pm, having been disguised in a handbag on the floor.

Two young women in their early 20s were killed instantly and more than 130 others suffered catastrophic and life-changing injuries.

McWilliam’s sculptures memorialise not only the two tragic lives lost, but also represented all the victims who suffered during the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Another bronze sculpture, this time by Enzo Plazzotta (1921-1981) of Vanessa Redgrave as Isadora Duncan, sold for £1,700. In 1967, Plazzotta explored the theme of dance in a series of sculptures, creating two different models of Redgrave in the role.

Oil paintings claimed the other leading prices in the auction’s fine art section, including £2,700 for ‘Cwm Idwal’ in Snowdonia by Sidney Richard Percy (1821-1886), £2,400 for ‘A Quiet Evening’ by George Stainton, £1,950 for ‘The Flower Girl’ by Frederick Williams Davis (1862-1919), £1,850 for a still life of pansies, geraniums and lobelia by Laurence Biddle (1888-1968) and £1,650 for ‘Feeding the Bords in Snow’ by Yeend King (1855-1924).

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