Winston Churchill Bust by Franta Belsky, 1976
Adding product to your cart
Height: 19.5cm (9in)
Bronze resin. Head and shoulders bust being a reduced scale version of Belsky’s bust in the Churchill Hotel, Portman Square, London and another at Churchill College, Cambridge. Signed verso ‘F. Belsky’. Height of bust: 14.5cm.
Belsky admired Churchill greatly and once recalled, ‘that it was only the direct intervention of Churchill during the war, sending a ship to take beleaguered Czech soldiers from the collapsing France, that saved him from certain captivity by the Germans.
Franta Belsky, F.R.B.S. (1921-2000) was the son of an eminent Czech economist and left his homeland in 1938 following the Nazi occupation of areas Czechoslovakia that were inhabited primarily by Sudeten Germans. He fought in the Battle of France, probably with the 1st Czech Division which tried to halt 16th Panzer Division but had its flanks turned and had to fight a rearguard action back across France, until re-grouping at Narbonne and being evacuated from Selte.
In England in he volunteered for the Czech army in exile and, encountered Churchill when he inspected his unit. In 1944 he served in Normandy with the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Armoured Brigade Group and was twice mentioned in despatches, once for continuing to repair a telephone line while under heavy fire. He received a number of Czech decorations for bravery. After the war Belsky returned to Prague, where he created the Paratroop Memorial and designed a medal in honour of the Czech Olympic athlete Emil Zatopek before having to flee Czechoslovakia again following the Communist takeover in 1948. As well as statues and busts, Belsky was responsible for many abstract designs on a heroic scale. His 1958 ‘Triga on the former sight the Tattersalls in London - a 30 foot-high group of three rearing horses - being a case in point.
In 1969 he executed his commission for Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri for an eight-foot bronze of Churchill to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech. Among Churchill sculptors only Oscar Nemon escaped criticism, either from the subject or his family or friends. Belsky was no exception, although the criticism he received was nowhere near as bad as that which had been given to Jacob Epstein's 1946 bust, David McFall's 1959 statue in Woodford, or that which would be given to Ivor Roberts Jones' 1976 ‘deformed giant’ in Parliament Square. Belsky produced no fewer than nine half-scale models before completing the Fulton statue, and it was his habit to seal inside each of his castings a Guinness bottle, a copy of the day's newspaper, a sixpence, and a note declaring that Franta Belsky was responsible.