We take a look at a bust of Anthony Burgess held in our collections and featured on the front covers of his autobiographies.
The Burgess Foundation’s archive includes a bust of Anthony Burgess by the American artist Milton Hebald (1917-2015). This bust appeared on the front covers of both volumes of Burgess’s autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God (1987) and You’ve Had Your Time (1990). It was created in 1970, when Burgess and his wife Liana visited Milton Hebald at his studio in Bracciano, near Rome. Liana had known him since the 1950s, and Burgess befriended the sculptor and his family when he settled permanently in Italy.
Milton Hebald’s work is well known in the United States, 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 to commemorate the 1984 Olympics.
Hebald also sculpted a memorial for James Joyce’s grave in Zurich in 1966. The statue shows Joyce seated with a book, overlooking the gravestone. In an article for the New York Times, 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.’ Galba was an unpopular ruler of the Roman Empire who reigned for six months between June 68 AD and January 69 AD, before his murder by mutinous soldiers.