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Gorilla (sculpture)

Gorilla
Crystal Palace Gorilla (3713875238).jpg
ArtistDavid Wynne
Completion date1961; 59 years ago (1961)
Typesculpture
MediumMarble
SubjectGuy the Gorilla
Dimensions1.2 m (3.9 ft)
Location
Coordinates51°25′08″N 0°03′53″W / 51.4188°N 0.0646°W / 51.4188; -0.0646
Listed Building – Grade II
Official nameGorilla sculpture
Designated19 January 2016
Reference no.1431362

The Gorilla sculpture by David Wynne stands beside the Lower Lake in Crystal Palace Park, in Bromley in south-east London. Completed in 1961 and installed in 1962, the black marble sculpture depicts Guy the Gorilla, a western lowland gorilla brought from West Africa to London Zoo in 1947. It became a Grade II listed structure in 2016.

Background

Guy the Gorilla was born at some point in 1946 in what was then French Cameroon.[2] Captured in 1947, he arrived at London Zoo on 5 November 1947 (Guy Fawkes Day) and was christened "Guy". He became one of the zoo's major attractions, famed for his gentle disposition. He died in 1978 of a heart attack while under general anaesthetic during an operation to extract a tooth.[3] His taxidermied remains are displayed at the entrance to the "Treasures" gallery in the central Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum. In addition to the sculpture at Crystal Palace Park, Guy is also commemorated by a bronze statue by William Timym, which was installed at London Zoo in 1982.

In 1959, David Wynne was commissioned through London County Council's Patronage of the Arts Scheme to create a large animal sculpture, with the site to be determined later. Wynne had studied zoology at the University of Cambridge, and he chose the popular Guy the Gorilla as his subject. The work was completed in 1961, and the finished sculpture was installed in 1962 near the children's zoo at Crystal Palace Park. (The children's zoo closed around 2000.) The statue was subsequently credited with launching Wynne's artistic career. Never popular with the art establishment, Wynne's figurative sculptures, mainly of animals but also of such people of note as Thomas Beecham, John Gielgud and The Beatles, won affection from the public. Among his most controversial works was the centrepiece to the Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner. Wynne died in 2014.[4]

Description

The sculpture of Guy the Gorilla is made of polished black fossiliferous Belgian marble and stands 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) high on a marble base with a roughly finished granite plinth. The base bears the sculptor's name and the date—"David Wynne 1961"—and the title "GORILLA" is carved into the plinth. The gorilla is standing on all fours: Wynne wanted the "powerful" form to convey "all his feelings of awe and terror and love for this mighty beast".[1] Jo Darke, in her history of English and Welsh monuments, notes that Wynne's intention for the piece to be an interactive sculpture was achieved; "children pat, stroke and climb as well as look".[5]

It stands on the north side of the Lower Lake in Crystal Palace Park, near the park café. The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are installed on an island further around the lake: Pevsner notes that Guy is "a recent addition to the herd".[6] The work was listed at Grade II, the grading given to buildings and structures of "special interest", in 2016.[1] The park itself is listed at Grade II* in the Register of Parks and Gardens, and the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs have a Grade I listing.

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Historic England. "Gorilla (sculpture)  (Grade II) (1431362)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  2. ^ Nicholls, Henry (February 3, 2014). "New ape: the changing face of Guy the gorilla" – via www.theguardian.com.
  3. ^ "Famous Animals". Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
  4. ^ Masters, Christopher (September 23, 2014). "David Wynne obituary" – via www.theguardian.com.
  5. ^ Darke 1991, p. 72.
  6. ^ Cherry & Pevsner 2002, p. 182.

Sources

External links