It’s a long time since I have been to tea at Fortnum & Mason, but my nocturnal walks around St. James’s, to look into the windows of my favourite art dealers, often takes me past this famous London ‘cornershop’. Just above its main canopy on Piccadilly is perched ‘The King and Queen’ (1990), a pair of exquisite bronze figures crafted by the eminent British sculptor, Lynn Chadwick.
Interestingly, the pair of seated figures are almost exactly the same height – Chadwick was obviously ahead of his time with gender equality. But why are they there? We have a major art collector, Frank Cohen, to thank for that. Back in 2016 Cohen sprinkled the whole store with sixty pieces of art from his immense collection, ranging from LS Lowry, Frank Auerbach and Tracey Emin. The only piece that remains is this angular, geometric couple guarding the entrance.
I have always felt that Chadwick’s style was very original, even if he was a ‘one trick wonder’ with his pairs of pointed male and female figures. His original training was as a draughstman, working for various designers and architects in London. His turning point came when, as a young artist, he enrolled for a welding course at the British Oxygen Company of Cricklewood. This enabled him to evolve technically.
Fame came to Chadwick when he was invited by the British Council to contribute four sculptures and four drawings to the group exhibition in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The group of eight sculptors was not a movement as such, but there was some affinity between each participant. The art critic, Sir Herbert Read, saw an intuitive reaction to the horrors of war within the works presented, describing them as “The Geometry of Fear” – a term which became a catchphrase for several artists within the group, including Henry Moore. In my opinion this was the pinnacle of Chadwick’s career.
So, next time you are walking along Piccadilly, look up when you reach Fortnum & Mason and enjoy one of our country’s more interesting depictions of royalty. Or pop into their tea room, so you can say you’ve had tea at the new home of the King and Queen.