Ben Enwonwu: The Nigerian artist who made a bronze sculpture of the Queen Elizabeth II
The yr was 1956, and there was a lot fanfare and anticipation for Queen Elizabeth’s first go to to Nigeria.
The younger monarch was only a few years into her reign and making a extremely anticipated go to to the West African nation, which had but to grow to be a republic.
Forward of her arrival, famed Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu obtained a royal fee to commemorate her go to with a statue, which made him the primary African artist to create an official portrait of a member of the royal household.
He started engaged on the sculpture the next yr, visiting Buckingham Palace in London for a number of sittings.
Ben Enwonwu engaged on the bronze sculpture of the queen Credit score: Courtesy Oliver Enwonwu/The Ben Enwonwu Basis
The remainder of the sittings occurred at a personal studio belonging to Sir William Reid-Dick, Enwonwu’s colleague on the Royal Society of British Artists.
Throughout this time, Enwonwu “completed a portrait bust and a sketch mannequin of the sculpture,” in accordance with the inspiration.
Ben Enwonwu and HM Elizabeth II his sculpture of the queen Credit score: Courtesy Oliver Enwonwu/The Ben Enwonwu Basis
Enwonwu accomplished the sculpture in 1957 and raised some eyebrows on the time for depicting the queen with fuller lips. His son Oliver mentioned that it was a part of Ben Enwonwu’s signature fashion to “Africanize” his topics.
“A number of the rave opinions that the sculpture obtained was that the artist depicted the queen by means of his African eyes, the work had African options, which was attribute of his work,” Oliver Enwonwu informed CNN.
Oliver, additionally a famend artist, described the queen’s sculpture as one in every of his father’s best works.
“My father was very happy with it. It was one in every of his masterpieces that confirmed his dexterity as an artist,” he informed CNN.
“On the time, it (Enwonwu making a sculpture of the queen) was a giant deal as a result of he was an African artist. However he was essentially the most well-known within the Commonwealth on the time so it was very simple that he can be given the nod,” Oliver added.
Unveiling of the statue in Nigeria Credit score: Courtesy Oliver Enwonwu/The Ben Enwonwu Basis
Whereas the sculpture later ended up in Nigeria, Queen Elizabeth acquired the bust and, in accordance with the Royal Assortment Belief, had one other Enwonwu sculpture in addition to a variety of his work.
The bronze of the queen was later positioned on the Nigerian parliament constructing forward of preparations for the nation’s independence from Britain in 1960.
The work now resides within the Nigerian nationwide museum.
An influential African artist
Enwonwu has come to be often called one in every of Africa’s best modernists.
Born in 1917, Enwonwu has been described as essentially the most influential African artist of the twentieth century.
He had grow to be an eminent artist even earlier than his royal fee, and in 1954, was given a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) award by the queen for his providers to artwork.
Enwonwu earned a scholarship in 1944 from Shell West Africa and the British Council to check positive artwork within the UK after a profitable solo exhibition. He obtained a classical training on the Slade Faculty of Fantastic Artwork in London and attended Oxford College. Enwonwu later returned to Nigeria to grow to be a lecturer.
He was appointed Nigeria’s first professor of artwork by the College of Ife, now often called Obafemi Awolowo College, in 1971 and obtained a Nationwide Benefit Award from the Nigerian authorities 9 years later.
He died in 1994 on the age of 77.
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