Ben Enwonwu: The Nigerian artist who created a bronze sculpture of the Queen Elizabeth II

Stella McDaniel
The yr was 1956, and there was much fanfare and anticipation for Queen Elizabeth’s to start with visit to Nigeria.

The younger monarch was just a several several years into her reign and earning a highly predicted stop by to the West African country, which experienced still to turn into a republic.

Forward of her arrival, famed Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu acquired a royal commission to commemorate her go to with a statue, which made him the initial African artist to make an official portrait of a member of the royal relatives.

He commenced doing work on the sculpture the adhering to 12 months, viewing Buckingham Palace in London for several sittings.

“In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II sat for Enwonwu for a massive bronze sculpture,” noted the Royal Selection Have confidence in, which oversees the artwork collection of the British royal relatives.

Ben Enwonwu working on the bronze sculpture of the queen Credit score: Courtesy Oliver Enwonwu/The Ben Enwonwu Foundation

In all, Queen Elizabeth sat for Enwonwu 12 situations, eight of which were at Buckingham Palace, in accordance to the Ben Enwonwu Foundation’s site.

The rest of the sittings took position at a personal studio belonging to Sir William Reid-Dick, Enwonwu’s colleague at the Royal Modern society of British Artists.

Throughout this time, Enwonwu “finished a portrait bust and a sketch model of the sculpture,” according to the foundation.

Ben Enwonwu and HM Elizabeth II looking at his sculpture of the queen

Ben Enwonwu and HM Elizabeth II wanting at his sculpture of the queen Credit score: Courtesy Oliver Enwonwu/The Ben Enwonwu Basis

‘African features’

Enwonwu completed the sculpture in 1957 and raised some eyebrows at the time for depicting the queen with fuller lips. His son Oliver claimed that it was part of Ben Enwonwu’s signature design and style to “Africanize” his topics.

“Some of the rave opinions that the sculpture obtained was that the artist depicted the queen by means of his African eyes, the do the job experienced African functions, which was attribute of his function,” Oliver Enwonwu advised CNN.

Oliver, also a renowned artist, described the queen’s sculpture as a person of his father’s greatest will work.

“My father was quite happy of it. It was one of his masterpieces that confirmed his dexterity as an artist,” he told CNN.

“At the time, it (Enwonwu producing a sculpture of the queen) was a huge offer simply because he was an African artist. But he was the most well-known in the Commonwealth at the time so it was really straightforward that he would be offered the nod,” Oliver included.

Unveiling of the statue in Nigeria

Unveiling of the statue in Nigeria Credit score: Courtesy Oliver Enwonwu/The Ben Enwonwu Foundation

When the sculpture later ended up in Nigeria, Queen Elizabeth obtained the bust and, in accordance to the Royal Collection Believe in, experienced a different Enwonwu sculpture as perfectly as a selection of his paintings.

The bronze of the queen was later on positioned at the Nigerian parliament building ahead of preparations for the country’s independence from Britain in 1960.

The do the job now resides in the Nigerian nationwide museum.

An influential African artist

Enwonwu has come to be regarded as 1 of Africa’s finest modernists.

His portrait of Nigerian princess Adetutu “Tutu” Ademiluyi, dubbed the “African Mona Lisa,” offered for more than $1.6 million (£1,205,000) at a London auction in 2018.

Born in 1917, Enwonwu has been explained as the most influential African artist of the 20th century.

He had come to be an eminent artist even before his royal fee, and in 1954, was provided a Member of the Get of the British Empire (MBE) award by the queen for his providers to art.

Enwonwu acquired a scholarship in 1944 from Shell West Africa and the British Council to examine high-quality art in the Uk soon after a effective solo exhibition. He obtained a classical schooling at the Slade Faculty of Wonderful Artwork in London and attended Oxford College. Enwonwu afterwards returned to Nigeria to become a lecturer.

He was appointed Nigeria’s very first professor of artwork by the College of Ife, now acknowledged as Obafemi Awolowo University, in 1971 and gained a Countrywide Benefit Award from the Nigerian federal government nine yrs later.

He died in 1994 at the age of 77.

Next Post

Photography show at the Paramount explores journey to 30 international locations

The imaginative head powering the Autumn Carolynn Journey Images Exhibition has traveled to 30 international locations in 30 yrs. She’s been to 48 states and six continents and now, she’s sharing her work with the general public. She goes by Autumn Carolynn and stated she begun conserving cash when she […]