Sculptor of naked statue celebrating feminist author defends work

Sculptor of naked statue to celebrate Mary Wollstonecraft defends the work and insists it has ‘served its purpose’ as public is now more aware of the author

  • Maggi Hambling’s work celebrating Mary Wollstonecraft was unveiled last year
  • The statue featured a naked figure atop the sculpture which drew criticism 
  • She told Radio 4’s Today programme ‘more and more people’ are now liking it 

It’s not the language you might expect a sculptor to be using first thing on Radio 4.

But Maggi Hambling gave her critics an, ahem, full-frontal assault when questioned about her controversial work celebrating Mary Wollstonecraft.

She accused them of focusing on the naked figure at the top of the sculpture (pictured) rather than the work as a whole. ‘People just went in for the tits and the fanny,’ she said.

The sculpture honouring 18th century British author and feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft was criticised by some people

The artwork was unveiled last year close to where the pioneering feminist and writer lived and worked in north London.

Miss Hambling told the Today programme: ‘What sort of surprised me was the objection to the naked figure which was part of the sculpture. Part of the objection came from feminists.’ She said the feminists were ‘denying that they have bodies’, adding: ‘There has been nude sculpture for time immemorial.’

Maggi Hambling says the sculpture has ‘served its purpose’

But Miss Hambling said she thinks ‘more and more people are liking’ the work, adding: ‘If the thing is controversial, it does show it’s got a bit of life to it.’

She added that her work, A Sculpture For Mary Wollstonecraft, ‘did serve its purpose in that so many more people now have asked themselves, “Who the hell is Mary Wollstonecraft?”.’

Miss Hambling previously defended her sculpture, claiming the figure was intended to celebrate ‘the spirit’ of Wollstonecraft and ‘certainly isn’t a historical likeness’.

Writers Malorie Blackman, Caitlin Moran and Caroline Criado-Perez were among those to criticise the statue after it was unveiled in Newington Green.

Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) is the author of A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, which was published in 1792.

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