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Inside the archive: Five fascinating objects owned by Anthony Burgess — and what he wrote about them
We take a look at a bust of Anthony Burgess held in our collections and featured on the front cover of his biographies.
Our gallery at the Engine House is currently closed, but when it reopens there will be an opportunity to view an item never before displayed in public: a bust of Anthony Burgess by the American artist Milton Hebald (1917-2015). This bust appeared on the front cover of both volumes of Burgess’s biography, Little Wilson and Big God (1987) and You’ve Had Your Time (1990). It was made in 1970, when Burgess and his second wife Liana had recently bought a house from Milton Hebald in Bracciano, near Rome, and they got to know the sculptor and his family well while they lived in Italy.
Milton Hebald’s work is well known around the world and especially in the US, where he was born in 1917. His two Shakespeare inspired statues, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘The Tempest’, stand outside the Delacorte Theatre in New York; and on Broadway there is a Hebald bust of the opera singer Richard Tucker. In Los Angeles, Hebald’s statues stand outside the Downtown YMCA and commemorate the 1984 Olympics in the city.
Hebald also sculpted a memorial for James Joyce’s grave in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1966. The statue shows Joyce seated with a book, overlooking the gravestone. Burgess commented: ‘if literary men, generally speaking, are devoted to Hebald more than any other living sculptor, it is because he has mediated wonderfully between the world of stone and metal and that of words.’
Writing about Hebald’s sculpture in You’ve Had Your Time, Burgess reflected further: ‘To make clay heads was like inventing characters in a novel. How about portraits? Portraits were inventions. Hebald invented me in clay. My fired image stands brooding, unhappy, as simpatico as the Emperor Galba.’ The Emperor Galba was an unpopular ruler of the Roman Empire who reigned for six months between June in 68 AD and January in 69 AD, before being murdered by mutinous soldiers.
The image below was taken in Milton Hebald’s studio by the artist.
Another sculpture of Burgess in our collections is a death mask, made by Michael Wade in 1993. Liana Burgess disliked its ‘flimsy smile’ and all she would say of it was that ‘It is not him’. It is Hebald’s bust that captures something of Burgess, always on the point of speech, and is a permanent monument to his friendship with the sculptor.
Our ‘Portraits of Anthony Burgess’ exhibition will be opening later in the year.