Franta Belsky’s Sculpture In Bethnal Green
The Lesson by Franta Belsky (1959)
For years, I passed Franta Belsky’s bronze sculpture in Bethnal Green every Sunday on my way to and from the flower market in Columbia Rd without knowing the name of the artist. Born in 1921 in Brno, Czechoslovakia, Belsky fled to England after the German invasion and fought for the Czech Exile Army in France. Returning to Prague after the war, he discovered that most of his family had perished in the Nazi Holocaust, before fleeing again in 1948 when the Communists took over.
Creating both figurative and abstract work, Belsky believed that sculpture was for everyone. “You have to humanise the environment,” he said once, “A housing estate does not only need newspaper kiosks and bus-stop shelters but something that gives it spirit.”As you can see from this film of 1959, some local residents in Bethnal Green were equivocal about Belsky’s scupture at first – but more than half a century later it has become a much-loved landmark.
The Lesson by Franta Belsky (1921-2000)