Jagger’s Artillery Memorial

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When I was in London a while back, I walked through Hyde Park, and looked at Artillery Memorial by Charles Sargeant Jagger , surely the most remarkable in London.

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In Galsworthy’s Swan Song, Soames Forsyte, grim during the General Strike, is walking through the Park when he comes across it:

Automatically he had begun to encompass the Artillery Memorial. A great white thing which he had never yet taken in properly, and didn’t know that he wanted to. Yet somehow it was very real, and suited to his mood—faced things; nothing high-flown about that gun—short, barking brute of a thing; or those dark men—drawn and devoted under their steel hats! Nothing pretty-pretty about that memorial—no angels’ wings there! No Georges and no dragons, nor horses on the prance; no panoply, and no panache! There it ‘sot’—as they used to say—squatted like a great white toad on the nation’s life. Concreted thunder. Not an illusion about it! Good thing to look at once a day, and see what you’d got to avoid. ‘I’d like to rub the noses of those Crown Princes and military cocks-o’-the-walk on it,’ thought Soames, ‘with their—what was it?—“fresh and merry wars!”’ And, crossing the road in the sunshine, he passed into the Park, moving towards Knightsbridge.

When he has walked on further, and after he has found himself in Montpellier Square, with its painful memories of his first marriage, though, he goes back again through the Park, and sees the Memorial differently:

He had come again to the Artillery Memorial; and for the second time he moved around it. No! A bit of a blot—it seemed to him, now—so literal and heavy! Would that great white thing help Consols to rise? Some thing with wings might, after all, have been preferable. Some encouragement to people to take shares or go into domestic service; help, in fact, to make life liveable, instead of reminding them all the time that they had already once been blown to perdition and might again be. Those Artillery fellows—he had read somewhere—loved their guns, and wanted to be reminded of them. But did anybody else love their guns, or want reminder? Not those Artillery fellows would look at this every day outside St. George’s Hospital, but Tom, Dick, Harry, Peter, Gladys, Joan and Marjorie. ‘Mistake!’ thought Soames; ‘and a pretty heavy one. Something sedative, statue of Vulcan, or somebody on a horse; that’s what’s wanted!’ And remembering George III on a horse, he smiled grimly. Anyway, there the thing was, and would have to stay! But it was high time artists went back to nymphs and dolphins, and other evidences of a settled life.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I am writing about Jagger’s latest piece to be bought by the V & A, a very racy bit of sculpture called Scandal!! But looking at his war memorials and church pieces, he seemed a very conservative, respectful man.

    Since his first major work was as late as 1919 and he died in 1934, Jagger didn’t really have time to develop, experiment, branch off into new directions. I wonder which side was the real Jagger.

    Hels
    Art and Architecture, mainly

  2. Posted July 27, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for that, Hels. I didn’t know ‘Scandal’. It’s an impressive piece.

  3. kirosl
    Posted November 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    This too is my favourite London war memorial. I used to work at the UKNIWM, so I got to see rather a lot!


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