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The memorial to Earl Haig
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Image by Gordon T Lawson
A study of Alfred Frank Hardiman’s memorial to Earl Haig in Whitehall
Hardiman was born in 1891 in Holborn. His father was a master silversmith. Hardiman trained as a draughtsman on leaving school and entered the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He studied under Charles L.Hartwell. He then entered the Royal College of Art where he studied under Professor Lanteri in 1912. Gained his diploma in 1915 and attended Royal Academy Schools but enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps as an engineering draughtsman whilst the schools were closed to male students from 1916 until the war ended. Hardiman resumed his studies after the war and in 1920 gained the Rome Scholarship. Elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1936 and Royal Academician in 1944. The Earl Haig memorial was the subject of much controversy and the public furore which ensued is said to have had adverse effects on his finances and his health.
In January 1929 the Office of Works announced that the proposed memorial to the late Lord Haig, who had died on the 29th January 1928, would take the form of a bronze equestrian statue to be erected in the centre of Whitehall opposite the portico of the Scottish Office. There was to be a limited competition with three sculptors being asked to submit models. The competition was to be judged by a panel of assessors, which was to include a nominee of the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of British Architects, and the Royal Society of Sculptors.
In July of 1929 it was announced that Hardiman had been awarded the commission, with S. Rowland Pierce as the architect. The assessors had been Lord D’Abernon, Mr.A.M.Daniel, director of the National Gallery, Sir W. Goscombe John (the nominee of the Royal Academy), Sir Herbert Baker (nominee of the Royal Institute of British Architects) and Mr.W.Reynolds-Stephens (nominee of the Royal Society of Sculptors). The statue was to be 24 foot high.
File WORK 20/185 at The National Archives covers the period 14th February 1928 to 15th July 1929 when Hardiman was told that he had won the competition. We learn that Charles Sargeant Jagger, William Reid Dick and Gilbert Ledward were the three original sculptors chosen to participate. Jagger was first to withdraw but William Reid Dick and Gilbert Ledward agreed to prepare models. In September 1928, Hardiman was suggested as the third sculptor. Reid Dick was the next to withdraw and was replaced by William McMillan The Competition regulations were sent to the three sculptors, Hardiman, Ledward and McMillan and it was agreed that they would be paid £ 150 for the models which the competition required they submit.
When Hardiman was awarded the commission a sketch of his model appeared in “Times” and this unleashed a storm of criticism, particularly from Lady Haig. It was Hardiman’s representation of the horse which was at the heart of these criticisms.
Another National Archives file, WORK 20/186 allows us to follow developments. Hardiman is compared to Jacob Epstein, and at one point the First Commissioner of Works writes “the king is firmly persuaded we are doing our best to land another Epstein monstrosity on the nation”. Epstein was proving a most controversial sculptor at this time and shock waves had surrounded his memorial tablet to the naturalist writer W.H.Hudson in the Hyde Park Bird Sanctuary, unveiled it is said to a visibily shocked Stanley Baldwin in 1925. Epstein’s “Night” and “Day” figures adorning the new London Underground Electric Railway headquarters at St.James’ station had also proved controversial. There was a description of Hardiman’s horse as being “ a semi-Epstein cart horse”. There was little merit in comparing the two sculptors who were as far apart as chalk and cheese but the choice does perhaps show how opinions had become inflamed.
Throughout Hardiman attempted to placate his critics and showed great stoicism. Whilst questions were being asked in the House of Commons, and the matter put before the Cabinet, he agreed to make further models/modifications. This was a most prestigious commission for any sculptor but during the next few years Hardiman may well have regretted being selected.
Until the unveiling in 1937 the storm of controversy raged. In March 1931 for example, George Lansbury, the First Commissioner of the Office of Works received a delegation from the British Legion who wanted the statue scrapped and the sculptor compensated. They then wanted an open competition to be held for a new design. Lansbury rejected these proposals.
By June 1937 Sir Philip Sassoon the then First Commissioner of Works announced that the casting of the bronze statue was nearing completion and that it was hoped that the statue would be ready for erection by the end of the year. With the base, designed by Mr.Rowland Pierce, the memorial would be about 26 ft high. In November 1937, the statue was unveiled by The Duke of Gloucester. Lady Haig did not attend the ceremony still complaining about the representation of the horse and the fact that Haig was not wearing a hat!
In 1939 the Royal Society of British Sculptors awarded Hardiman their medal “for the best work of the year by a British sculptor in any way exhibited to the public in London” this for the Earl Haig Memorial.
See… for further information on Hardiman.