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Mother and Child (1930)


Copnall was a sculptor who worked in a wide range of materials. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1903, he came to England as a child. He was educated at the Liverpool Institute and Skinners School before studying art, firstly at Goldsmiths College, and secondly the Royal Academy Schools, which he left in 1924 to earn a living as a portrait painter. In 1927 he met the painter and sculptor Eric Kennington (1888-1960) whose work greatly impressed him, and which decided him to devote himself to sculpture. He executed many commissions during the thirties, including some decorative sculptures and a painting for the newly erected building of the Royal Institute of British Architects, London, 1934; wood carvings for the liners "Queen Mary" and "Queen Elizabeth;" engraved glass screens for the latter ship and for the Odean cinema, Leicester Square; and a stone figure for the river facade of the Adelphi building, London. During the Second World War he served as a camouflage officer in North Africa, the Near East and Italy, for which duties he was awarded the M.B.E.. At the end of the war he spent time at the British School in Rome before returning to England where, from 1945-53, he was headmaster of the Sir John Cass College of Art. In the fifties he began to make figures in fibre glass and resin, such works including his "Swan Man" for the I.C.T. building on Putney Bridge, while at the same time continuing to carve in stone theatre subjects for the facade of the building that now occupies the site of the former St.James's Theatre in London. He was president of the Royal Society of British Sculptors 1961-66. He died in Canterbury on 18 October 1973. This piece exhibits the strong stylization of forms also found in kennington, Eric Gill and many other of the more avant -garde British sculptors of the twenties and thirties. The style ultimately owed much to Cubism.