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Willie Lamb

 
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jamiemcginlay



Joined: 20 Dec 2006
Posts: 939
Location: Glasgow

PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 11:29 pm    Post subject: Willie Lamb Reply with quote

The Montrose sculptor Willie Lamb is not an important artist in terms of war memorials. He was still young and recovering from war wounds in the immediate post war years and was only involved in the design and execution of two of his local war memorials, at Hillside and Farnell in Angus. He was however an outstanding sculptor with an interesting story so I thought he should be included in these lists of artists. Its just a pity he never had the chance to execute a major memorial with a bronze, after WWI or WWII, as I think he could have produced something outstanding.

1893 Born in Montrose, youngest of six children and son of a Master Mariner, lived in Mill Street, Montrose

Studied at the local North Links School, showed little interest in anything but drawing, football and cycling

1906 - 1912 Served his apprenticeship as a monumental mason to his brother James. Attended art evening classes at Montrose Academy.

1912 Moved to Aberdeen working at a granit merchants while continuing to study at night classes at Gray's School of Art.

1914 - 1918 At outset of war volunteered for the Cameron Highlanders. Served on the Western Front. Was twice wounded, on the first occassion was wounded in the leg and spent his convelescence making pin-cushions out of pieces of tartan, and drawing christmas cards. On the second occassion he was struck in the right hand by shrapnel. It was so badly shattered that he never regained the use of the fingers

1917? Convalescing in Aberdeen and learned to use his left hand

1918 - 1921 Attended the classes of John A. Myles and Lena Gaudie at Montrose Academy

1920 The Montrose Review of 21st May 1920 carried an article about Lamb's design for the Hillside war memorial.
" The Memorial consists of a massive structure of freestone, with a panel of red unpolished granite in the centre. The measurements are eleven feet high, and six feet square at the base. The work of executing the memorial is in the hands of Mr. William Lamb, sculptor, Montrose, who has already completed its design. Mr. Lamb, it is interesting to note, saw service with the Cameron Highlanders and was twice wounded. The memorial is to be erected in the centre of the village at the prominent point at the join of two of the main roads."

Hillside War Memorial:

If Lamb was actually responsible for the placing of the mortar on top of the memorial then its interesting to ask why. Lamb had experienced trench warfare at first hand, he was a veteran and yet at the same time he was still a young man when he came home and was not yet an established artist or part of the establishment (he never really became part of the establishment). It might be useful to consider what he could have placed at the top of such a memorial, most were crowned with bronze 'Victories', and even if a bronze or stone contemporary soldier was portrayed these often tended to be rather idealized figures. Lamb apparently rejected this in favour of a machine, a symbol of the mechanised, industrial warfare he knew. Its perhaps the kind of 'In Your Face' concept you might expect from an up and coming young artist and is even reminiscent of the sentiments expressed in Sassoons' poem 'The Blighters'. The Edwardian sculptor Henry Snell Gamley was responsible for the sculpture on the war memorial in Lamb's native Montrose and he executed the more traditional figure of a winged victory for the top of the Montrose pedestal. It is interesting to compare the two monuments, Lamb's Hillside and Gamley's Montrose(see above and below) which are only a few miles from one another and are roughly similar in their general design. Although it has to be remembered that all war memorials regardless of design naturally and rightly become objects of respect and affection within their communities it is hard not to feel that Lamb's approach at Hillside has an honesty about it. Certainly the two monuments seem to reveal a considerable generation gap between the wounded ex-veteran and the elderly gentleman sculptor, a gap which was to be found throughout Scottish society in the post war years. One further interesting question which might be asked is why a mortar? A piece of heavy artillery might seem more impressive and the machine gun would more aptly encapsulate the reality of modern trench warfare. If Lamb was responding to Gamley's Montrose memorial then it might just be possible that he chose the mortar for a specific reason. In ancient Greece a victory was traditionally commemorated not by a winged allegorcial figure like Gamley's but by a bronze tripod. Victors of games often set up their tripods on pedestals in the streets of Athens and there were so many that these are referred to as 'Street Tripods'. What is interesting about the mortar is that the legs on which the barrel stands form a perfect tripod. If this was Lamb's idea then he succeeded in creating a monument which was at once contemporary, portraying the realities of the war in a way that Gamley's does not, and also classical in a purer and more historically accurate way than Gamley's 'Victory'.
(unfortunately I don't have dates for these two memorials, Montrose dates from 1920 but was completed in 1924 while Lamb started his design for Hillside in 1920, but if the Montrose memorial pre-dates the Hillside monument then perhaps the Hillside memorial might even be Lamb's perssonal response to the Montrose monument and others like it?). Then again perhaps it wasn't Lamb who was responsible for the idea, maybe there was a mortar lying around and someone had a good idea what to do with it! Even if Lamb was making a statement he would hardly have explained this to the war memorial committee which would almost certainly have rejected the idea. Unfortunately there is so little information on many war memorials that this kind of conjecture is inevitable.
Henry Snell Gamley's Montrose War Memorial


Farnell War Memorial:


1921 - 1922 Studied full time at Edinburgh College of Art under Percy Proudfoot and David Foggie (presumably he would also have met Alexander Carrick at this time?)

1922 - 1924 Studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Professor Boucher and apparently greatly impressed his French colleagues. He then made a 3,000 mile bicycle tour of France and Italy, sleeping under hedgerows, until his wallet was stolen in Italy

1924 Returned to Montrose and set up Studio

Carnegie Memorial, Brechin Cathedral:


1925 Exhibited 'The Cynic' at the 1925 Paris Salon
The Montrose Review published 1st July 1925 carried an article on Lamb and states that he executed two war memorials "in granite, erected to the fallen in the war, both very individual pieces of work, which he carried through entirely single-handedly". In the same publication dated 28th April 1933 it names these memorials as Hillside and Farnell.

1929 Won the RSA Guthrie Award for 'Ferryden Fishwife'

1931 Elected A.R.S.A.

1932 Modelled heads of the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, an important commission which reflected his growing stature asan artist. (through patronage of the Duchess of York (Queen Mother) who's connections with Glamis led her to support a local artist)

1934 His continuing succes allowed him to leave his old studio in Bridge Street and move into a new studio built to his own specifications in Market Street.

1945 Set up a stone carving business for his nephew who was in the army

1951 Died of kidney disease

Lamb was known as a loner who suffered from constant ill-health. The RSA report states that "As an artists he was one of the outstanding Scottish Sculptors of his day. His work is characterised by a great competency and knowledge, a vitality which never flags, and a sureness and swiftness of touch...(his main subject were fisherfolk) and he aimed at imparting to these works a vivid sense of the elements against which they battled. There was besides a strong sense of poetry in his work, and in his later output he executed many carvings in wood in which a sense of wind blowing was expressed by the skilfull management of drapery and form. All his work shows the influence of the best examples of traditional French Sculpture." (There is a bronze 'The Seafarer' by Lamb standing in Montrose Harbour which was a posthumous commission)
According to one Synopsis "Lamb modelled strong expressionistic sculptures of fisherfolk that drew upon Meunier and Barlach. A portrait head of McDiarmid has the strength of line of German wood-carving and painting of the 1930's, as do Lamb's carved works. His entire output of drawings, water-colours, etchings, bronzes, stone and wood carvings, and plasters are housed in the William Lamb Memorial Studio, Montrose.
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FortyTwa



Joined: 12 May 2009
Posts: 128
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Fri Aug 27, 2010 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Visited the William Lamb Memorial Studio in Montrose on a recent rainy day and both surprised and delighted at the wealth of material.
Lamb's sister donated all his collected works to the town and the studio is now run as a museum by Angus Council.
Most of his painting and sculptures are here, including all his sketchbooks from his post WW1 cycle tour of conflict ravaged France & Italy and a photo of him in uniform, and the curator is a helpful lad (who was unaware that Lamb created the Hillside WM!)
Particularly taken by the plaster and bronze busts of his nephew, who won the MC in WW2.
Very well worth a visit if anyone in the area.

Framed display


Plaster of Minesweeper


And the real thing back in situ after being knocked down in storm


Bronze bust of nephew Capt D K Lamb MC


Painted plaster bust of nephew Capt D K Lamb MC
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FortyTwa



Joined: 12 May 2009
Posts: 128
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The grave of William Lamb and his nephew in Sleepyhillock Cemetery, Montrose

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jamiemcginlay



Joined: 20 Dec 2006
Posts: 939
Location: Glasgow

PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was doing some research into Lamb and discovered he was invited to submit a design for the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. He worked on the project with his nephew Captain David Lamb MC who was not long returned from the war and apparently came up with a design featuring two massive slabs of granite representing the opening doors of a landing craft and emerging between them was the sculpture of an officer leading his men. The sea was to be represented by a different stone (maybe blue slate?) and rocks representing the waves crashing around the craft (white quartz?). Then Lamb discovered the panel judging the competition was based in London and he destroyed his designs!
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