I made this portrait of my wife just after we were married. At that time I was and still am, a big admirer of Charles Despiau, the French sculptor (1874-1946). I particularly liked his Le Jeune Grecque and wanted to make something similar as a homage to a sculptor from whose works I’ve learnt a great deal.
When I first met my teacher, Oscar Nemon, I showed him some photographs of the work I’d done. His response was ‘I think you might be a Despiau’. About a year later I managed to track down a book of Despiau’s works and was shocked to think this was good sculpture! However, I was young and had not fully developed my critical eye. After several years of looking at Despiau’s works and trying to evolve my sculpture I began to fully realise how subtle and skilled an artist he was.
Twenty years later I made this second portrait of Mayuri: Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer of beautiful, intriguing works. She’s my adored wife who was pregnant with our first child during the sittings for this sculpture.
I learnt a measuring technique from my respected colleague Brian Taylor FRBS (d. 21st March 1993). The method was a very old one and in common use amongst sculptors in the early 20th century and was taught in art schools in post WWII. Brian learnt this technique at the Slade School of Art in London in the 50’s and taught it at Camberwell School of Art (1965-1984). The basis of the technique was that the structure of the head was fundamentally symmetrical and the measuring technique put all the volumes of the head in absolutely accurately. My wife gave me many sittings, and at the end of each sitting the head could have been left untouched but I couldn’t help carrying on with it.