Commission to sculpt a bronze maquette of Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard
In 2014 I was commissioned to sculpt three maquettes (or small models) to help make the final decision on the pose for an over-life size sculpture of Sir Nigel Gresley, the eminent railway engineer. Three rough maquettes were made in terracotta wax – the decision was unanimous, Sir Nigel would be sculpted with a mallard duck at his side. The go-ahead was given and I sculpted the maquette in clay before it was cast in bronze (35cm tall).
The inspiration behind the design of the maquette
Sir Nigel Gresley would be depicted quizzically surveying the new Western concourse at King’s Cross, with the Art Deco-esque lines of the new balcony and the incredible new ‘tree’ canopy. Sir Nigel was quite a showman, so this seemed the perfect stage-set for him, with his old office building – now a Grade I listed building – as the perfect backdrop. With his back to the old, he would be looking out towards the new, towards today’s busy commuters traveling near and far on trains influenced by his feats of engineering.
Caught off guard in a moment of reflection, Sir Nigel appears relaxed and relatively informal, with his hand in his jacket pocket and a copy of his trade journal, The Locomotive, in his other hand. This is his terrain. This is where he works. A twinkle in his eye suggests his good sense of humour. He was an authoritative yet not an autocratic man. He demanded excellence and commanded loyalty.
But why the duck? This is no mere whimsy. This companion to Sir Nigel, alludes to his record-breaking Mallard locomotive but also his well-documented love of waterfowl. According to his Grandson Tim Godfrey:
‘[Sir Nigel] used to live at Salisbury Hall in Hertfordshire, which had a moat, and he started a collection of wildfowl – wild ducks and so on – that he was very keen on….some of his locomotives were named after them’ (Shropshire Star, April 29, 2013)
In addition, the mallard duck was to rouse the curiosity of those unfamiliar with the man, including the younger generation: getting them to come closer, to read the wall plaque and scan the QR [Quick Read] code, to find out more about this incredible engineer. So, the inclusion of the mallard was to attract interest far beyond the ranks of committed railway enthusiasts.
Postscript: In late March 2015 I was commissioned by the Gresley Society Trust to sculpt the larger-than-life figure of Sir Nigel Gresley, but without the mallard duck at his side.
There is a bronze edition of 20 available – please email hazel [at] hazelreeves.com