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A New Sculpture For Frank Dobson Sq

January 4, 2022
by the gentle author

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Woman & Fish by Frank Dobson in situ

Frank Dobson Sq in Whitechapel, where Cambridge Heath Rd meets Cephas St, was constructed in 1963 and named after the Clerkenwell-born sculptor whose ‘Woman & Fish’ formed the handsome centrepiece of the Cleveland Estate. Dobson’s sculpture of two figures entitled ‘London Pride’ situated outside the National Theatre serves a similar function on the South Bank. He is also remembered as the teacher of Henry Moore, whose ‘Draped Seated Woman’ currently sits in Canary Wharf prior to installation in Whitechapel outside the new Tower Hamlets Town Hall.

Twenty years ago, Dobson’s sculpture was removed from its plinth in Whitechapel following a series of vandalisations which damaged it beyond repair, leaving a gaping hole in the streetscape to this day. Then, in 2006, Tower Hamlets Council commissioned Antonio Lopez Reche to make a bronze replica, cast at a foundry in Limehouse, but it was installed in Millwall Park on the Isle of Dogs in 2007.

The original installation of Frank Dobson’s sculpture at the Cleveland Estate celebrated the work of a major British sculptor in the year of his death and embodied a progressive belief in the importance of high quality public art as a means to improve the urban environment.

In 2017, residents of Whitechapel launched a Bring Back Our Statue campaign to return ‘Woman & Fish’ to the empty plinth in Frank Dobson Sq with improved lighting and security cameras to ensure its safety, restoring a cherished East End landmark to its rightful place.

After five years of campaigning, there is good news. Tower Hamlets Council have now confirmed the replacement of the statue and the refurbishment of Frank Dobson Sq as part of the local infrastructure plan. Dobson’s art trust is working with the council to recast one of his sculptures in bronze that can be placed upon the empty plinth. Works under consideration include ‘The Fount’ and one of Dobson’s other studies of ‘Woman with Fish’. We will keep you posted on progress.

The plinth in Cambridge Heath Rd has been empty since 2002

Twenty years after the removal of his sculpture, it is still ‘Frank Dobson Sq’

Bronze replica by Antonio Lopez Reche in Millwall Park on the Isle of Dogs

Woman & Fish

London Pride by Frank Dobson outside the National Theatre on the South Bank

You may also like to read about

Franta Belska’s Sculpture in Bethnal Green

Philip Lindsey Clark’s Sculptures in Widegate St

Dorothy Annan’s Murals in the Barbican

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Sarah B. Guest Perry permalink
    January 4, 2022

    Love her fish.

  2. Robin permalink
    January 4, 2022

    Excellent news! An important interwar-postwar British sculptor, developing an innovative modernist classicising style similar to Maillol. President of the London Group in the mid 1920s. It will be wonderful to have Dobson’s sculpture restored to its position on the plinth.

  3. Richard Kirker permalink
    January 5, 2022

    It’s good news, up to a point, but as there is an attempt to remove any hint of a female body in such a statue we have to remain very vigilant, and insistent with Tower Hamlets council not to succumb to such pressure,

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