William Huskisson (1770-1830)
John Gibson, RA 1790-l866
Pimlico Gardens, off Grosvenor Rd, London SW1
Another of Gibson's classically draped marble statues, this one in a little Thames-side park shows the statesman William Huskisson in a Roman senator's robes and a deeply thoughtful pose. Sir Robert Peel, who had been present when Huskisson was fatally injured by a train at the ceremonial opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway, thought the sculptor had endowed his subject with an unmerited air of grandeur by portraying him like this. Gibson, however, responded: "I fancy 150 years hence people will not complain of that" (qtd. in Read 173). As Benedict Read goes on to point out, this just shows Gibson's attitude as a neo-classical sculptor who "aimed at presenting an image worthy virtually of eternity." Such an attitude, says Read, was "certainly still current " at this time (173-4). Unfortunately, though, one cannot count on appealing to later generations. In the next century Osbert Sitwell described the statue facetiously in terms of "Boredom rising from the bath" (qtd. in Baker 33).
Photograph and text Jacqueline Banerjee, 2010