The first object is the 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 continued a friendship with the sculptor while they lived in Italy.
Hebald came of age during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme, and his earliest earnings as an artist were the result of federal funding. He taught children of Italian immigrants to New York how to sculpt for $28 a week in 1935. His artwork graces public spaces in both New York and Los Angeles. His two Shakespeare inspired statues, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘The Tempest’, stand outside the Delacorte Theatre in New York, home to the annual Shakespeare in the Park Festival. Across town, 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.
Most famously, Hebald sculpted a memorial for James Joyce’s grave in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1966. The statue shows Joyce seated with a book, overlooking the gravestone. It is this work that made Burgess comment: ‘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.’
Milton Hebald died on 5 January 2015, at the age of 97.