First life-size statue of Virginia Woolf to be erected on Richmond riverside

A life-size, fully clothed statue of prolific writer Virginia Woolf is to be built in Richmond and is expected to overlook the River Thames.

The first full-size statue of the English writer, famed for works such as Mrs Dalloway and Orlando, is set to be erected in the heart of the town in which she lived for 10 years.

Woolf moved to Hogwarth House, Richmond with her husband Leonard in 1914 where they stayed until 1924.

The statue is the brainchild of award-winning sculptor Laury Dizengremel, known for her sculptures of many famous figures from Winston Churchilll to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the latter located near Hammersmith Bridge.

For her impression of Woolf, Dizengremel wanted to strike a more upbeat tone than the busts currently on offer around London, and rejected suggestions that the writer disliked the suburban town, citing the work of Peter Fullagar.

She said: “The bust in Tavistock Square is incredibly sad and Woolf didn’t like it. So my portrayal of Virginia is in a happy moment.

“I imagined her sitting in Richmond on a bench writing into her diary. People seem to labour under the erroneous impression that Virginia didn’t like Richmond, but that’s bullsh*t. 

“She might have said one thing about it, but we all say things like that.

“In her diary you see over and over again her love of Richmond, you see her love of the Thames, you see her enjoyment of walking the dog along there.

“This Virginia is happy, she sits on a bench and hopefully she will inspire generations of women.”

HAPPY VIRGINIA: The 110cm statue will be located near Heron Square
Credit: Laury Dizengremel

Dizengremel also commented on the disproportional representation of women in Britain’s public artwork, which currently account for just 5% of statues nationwide.

She added: “You have to be a queen or a naked nymph to have any sort of visual representation in public.

“So there are very few portrayals of women of achievement.”

The figure will be installed near Richmond Bridge on a terrace overlooking the River Thames.

It will sit upon a matching bronze bench, an aspect that Dizengremel believes will make the artwork more interactive so that visitors can sit next to and “engage in conversation” with the figure. 

Dizengremel added: “It’s nice that it’s not just something you can look at, but something that you can sit next to and be with.”

The author will be fully clothed, in light of the controversy surrounding the statue of Mary Wollstonecraft, which has seen a renewed interest for artwork portraying women in a positive light.

The statue was commissioned by Aurora Metro Arts and Media in Richmond, a charity dedicated to championing equality in art, who have already raised over £15,000 towards the costs of the bronze casting.

An online gala evening is also planned for 12 December to celebrate the life of the BBC named “icon of the 20th century”, featuring contributions from several artists and writers including Frances Spalding and Mark Haddon.

Founder of Aurora Metro Arts Cheryl Robson explained that the statue was commissioned in response to the absence of any female figures in around 100 statues in the borough.

She said: “In terms of role models for young women and girls there’s a clear imbalance.

“We need to see more women of achievement celebrated.”

Featured image credit: Laury Dizengremel

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