Hatfield's stunning art heritage explored on sculpture walk about town
- Credit: Alan Davies
To celebrate it being International Sculpture Day 2021 today – April 24 – we take a look at the University of Hertfordshire's 14 outdoor sculptures in Hatfield.
UH Arts recently acquired a new sculpture by internationally renowned artist and UH alumna Diane Maclean.
Diabolo – an imposing 4.5metre light-reflecting, pyramidal form – has been installed on the university’s de Havilland Campus near the Learning Resources Centre.
Made in 2018 from coloured stainless steel, Diabolo is based on the form of the ancient Chinese spinning toy.
It's the second work by artist Diane Maclean on display outdoors at the university, with Mountain, 2005, on the College Lane Campus.
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There are another dozen exhibits from the UH collection on a dedicated Sculpture Walk around the university.
Open to campus audiences and the public, when COVID-19 restrictions allow, the walk introduces the 14 outdoor sculptures in the art collection.
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It presents an eclectic group of works which map the changing characteristics of British sculpture since the 1950s.
Among the uni's sculptures is a life-size bronze tribute to aeronautical engineer and Hatfield aviation pioneer Sir Geoffrey de Havilland.
Sir Geoffrey founded the de Havilland Aircraft Company in September 1920 at Stag Lane Aerodrome in Edgware.
The company later moved in the 1930s to a new factory on the Hatfield Aerodrome site, where it became a firm competing on the global stage.
The de Havilland Aircraft Company gave land to Hertfordshire County Council for educational use as Hatfield Technical College, which opened in 1952.
The official opening ceremony was performed by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Over the years, the college became Hatfield College of Technology, Hatfield Polytechnic and now today's university.
Commissioned by the University of Hertfordshire, the statue shows Sir Geoffrey de Havilland holding a model of a DH.106 Comet, the world's first commercial jet airliner, which was designed and built in Hatfield.
The de Havilland Campus is also on land that was previously part of the Hatfield aircraft factory.
By Keith Maddison, the statue was unveiled by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh in 1997, with Sir Geoffrey's cousin, Gone With the Wind actress Dame Olivia de Havilland, among those in attendance.
The statue is situated near the entrance to the university's College Lane site and close by is Diane Maclean's Mountain.
This immersive and multi-sensory sculpture invites people inside to participate, rather than merely observe.
The reflective quality of the surfaces is disorientating but places viewers directly within the sculpture.
Perhaps the most famous piece in the university's collection – and one of its founding works – is Vertical Forms by internationally renowned sculptor Barbara Hepworth.
The Hopton Wood stone relief depicts a trio of interlocking abstracted figures that were inspired by multiple drawings of dancers.
It was originally built directly into the brick fabric of the College Lane main building.
Vertical Forms was housed there for nearly seven decades before being removed for conservation work after enduring significant weathering.
The sculpture formed the centrepiece of an exhibition of Hepworth's work at the St Albans Museum + Gallery in 2019.
It is currently on loan to The Hepworth Wakefield museum until 2022, after which it will be re-sited on campus in Hatfield in a protected location in order to prevent further weathering of the carved detail, and to ensure its preservation for the future.
Another of the collection's five inaugural works is College Plan.
Trevor Tennant was commissioned by Hatfield Technical College in 1948 to respond to the architect's design for the main building of the college.
The schematic relief depicts the original geometric footprint of the college site.
Welcoming visitors to the Art & Design Gallery is Torso by Hertfordshire sculptor John Farnham.
Growing up next door to Henry Moore, Farnham became the famous sculptor's part-time assistant and later established his own artistic practice.
The bronze torso in Hatfield resembles Moore's iconic work.
The Art and Design Gallery is currently closed to the general public.
As well as the dozen sculptures on the College Lane Campus, there are also two on the newer de Havilland Campus on the other side of the A1(M).
Latest Sculpture Walk addition Diabolo joins Trees Are The Lungs of the World by Vusumuzi Michael Mlambo, a graduate in Fine Art from the University of Hertfordshire.
Located among living trees of similar height, Vusumuzi Michael Mlambo’s bespoke palm tree made with metal components from scrap cars is well camouflaged.
This potentially tricks the viewer with a kind of 'trompe l'oeil'.
Meaning 'to deceive the eye', this art technique uses realistic imagery to create the illusion of a real object or scene.
A narrated digital sculpture tour is available at www.uharts.co.uk alongside digital galleries showcasing the extensive university art collection.