February Artwork of the Month: Harold Macmillan by Oscar Nemon

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01 February 2016

Artwork of the Month: On 3 February 1960, Harold Macmillan famously spoke of a ‘wind of change’ happening in Africa, as more and more majority black populations in the colonies were claiming the right to rule themselves.

Harold Macmillan, speaking to the South African Parliament in Cape Town at the end of a month-long tour of the African continent, made the historic statement: “The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact”.

Macmillan’s speech is now seen as one of the defining statements of British foreign policy in the 20th century, because it signified the first acceptance of the British government that the days of Empire were over. However, the apartheid system was to continue for a further 30 years, until 1990 when President de Klerk began dismantling the laws and future president, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Despite Nationalist Party politicians reacting to Macmillan’s speech with outrage, his speech brought international opposition to the apartheid system to the light of day and is thought by many to have sped up the process of African independence.

Who was Harold Macmillan?

Macmillan was Conservative Prime Minister of Britain between 1957 and 1963 and presided during a time of prosperity and the easing of the tensions of the Cold War. After four decades in British politics, Macmillan resigned from office in 1963 due to ill health. He died in 1986 at the age of 92. Macmillan is immortalised in the Houses of Parliament by a bronze portrait bust situated in the Member’s Lobby, by sculptor Oscar Nemon.

About Oscar Nemon

Nemon was born into a Jewish family in Croatia in 1906. In the 1920s, he moved to Vienna and worked in his uncle’s bronze foundry. After a short period studying in Paris, Nemon moved to Brussels to study at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, where he won a gold medal for his sculpture. He worked in Brussels until 1939, sharing a house with the painter Rene Magritte for much of the 1930s. He returned to Vienna in 1941, to create a large seated sculpture of Sigmund Freud, which is now in Hampstead. Nemon escaped to England in 1938, concerned by the threat of Nazi Germany. Most of his family remained in Europe and died in the Holocaust.

After the war, Nemon created sculptures of a number of high profile figures, including Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother, Lord Beaverbrook and Margaret Thatcher. He is perhaps best known for his series of more than a dozen public sculptures of Winston Churchill, including one outside the House of Commons Chamber, in the same space as his bust of Macmillan.

Image: ‘Harold Macmillan’, bronze sculpture by Oscar Nemon (WOA S257)

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