Chichester artist plans Virginia Woolf sculpture for East Sussex

Fishbourne-based sculptor Vincent Gray is hoping to gain support for his proposals for a life-sized Virginia Woolf sculpture in Rodmell, East Sussex, where she lived.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 11:00 am
The proposed sculpture

He is keen to work with local councils to make the statue a reality – after what he calls his own “epiphany”, a sudden vision of Woolf as he needed to depict her, striding out over the South Downs.

Vincent and his wife were visiting Monk’s House in Rodmell two years ago when inspiration struck: “Virginia could often be seen walking with determination in all weathers over the Downs from her home, Monk’s House in Rodmell, to nearby Charleston Farmhouse in Firle, the home of artist Vanessa Bell, Virginia’s sister, and her friend Duncan Grant.

“In 1940, the Woolfs’ flat in Mecklenburgh Square, London was damaged during an air raid so they moved to Rodmell. The calm village life suited Virginia, and Monk’s House is where many of her novels were written.

“Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf bought Monks House in 1919. Monk’s House is a 16th-century weather-boarded cottage in the village of Rodmell, three miles south of Lewes. Virginia and Leonard bought the house by auction at the White Hart Hotel, Lewes, on July 1 1919 for £700 and received many visitors connected to the Bloomsbury Group. Virginia’s sister Vanessa lived at nearby Charleston Farmhouse in Firle from 1916, and though contrasting in style, both houses became important outposts of the Bloomsbury Group.

“In March 1941, Virginia Woolf committed suicide in the nearby River Ouse.

Vincent has now produced the Virginia Woolf maquette, a scaled model of the proposed artwork designed to lead to a life-size sculpture in bronze to be sited in Rodmell or the surrounding area. Parish councils including Rodmell, Alfriston and Firle have received photographs, drawings and projected costs for the work and are currently deliberating the investment, Vincent says. He is offering them the precedent of the way his Keats sculpture in Chichester took shape and happened.

“What would be good would be to get planning permission and that would then give it momentum for the fundraising. £80,000 is generally accepted as the cost for a life-sized figure in bronze. I am always confident, but I know that these things take time. Really I need to be dealing with people who have a similar vision. The work has to be appropriate and it needs to be of a high standard, and I am confident of both of those things. That’s not necessarily the difficult bit. The difficulty is in finding people to get behind the project. But I do think it is achievable. The people I am dealing with need to recognise the value of public art to the community.”

Vincent is hoping to raise some of the money for the sculpture through selling his Virginia Woolf maquettes which are available in bronze as signed and numbered editions of 20. Profits from sales will help secure the sculpture, he says. To find out more or buy a maquette, call the Vincent Gray Studios on 01243 774354.