THE names of the three sculptors competing to create a statue of Charles Dickens in Portsmouth have been revealed.
The shortlisted artists are now in the running to create a life-sized monument in time for next year’s celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the great author’s birth. Dickens left instructions in his will that no statue should be made of him but now his family have agreed one should be created.
A dozen artists were considered but the final three are Jemma Pearson, Les Johnson and Martin Jennings.
All are renowned for their striking sculptures of legendary popular figures, including Charles Darwin, Brian Clough and Sir John Betjeman.
Now one will be commissioned by Portsmouth City Council and the Dickens Fellowship to come up with a piece of work which will stand in Guildhall Square.
Fellowship member Professor Tony Pointon said the judges had been amazed by the quality of people who applied.
He said: ‘We thought the previous work of the artists we have chosen reflects the kind of monument we are looking for.
‘But that’s not to say it was an easy choice, picking just three was actually very difficult – the standard was that high.
‘We have an idea for the kind of statue we would like; something accessible to the general public, that shows Dickens the man, rather than just the historical figure. That is certainly what his family are hoping for.’
Each sculptor has been invited to tour the city before submitting detailed proposals.
They will visit the proposed location for the statue in Guildhall Square, outside the central library, as well as other relevant sites such as the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum.
The writer’s great-great grandson, Ian Dickens, was part of the committee that selected the shortlist.
He said: ‘I’m very excited by the artists we have picked.
‘Not only should the statue celebrate that Portsmouth was his birthplace, it should explore a creative mind that gave birth to so many memorable characters and story lines.
‘My great-great grandfather is a son that Portsmouth should be hugely proud of and the 2012 bicentenary of his birth should attract visitors to the city from all over the world.’
Next year’s 200th birthday will be marked by exhibitions, conferences and events throughout the city, and the unveiling of the statue will take place in August.
For more information about what is happening visit dickens2012.org.
Martin Jennings lives in Oxford and built bronze statues of Sir John Betjeman, for the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras Station, and Philip Larkin, in Hull’s Paragon Station. He said: ‘I won’t know what I’m going to do until I visit the site.’
Jemma Pearson produced the sculpture of Charles Darwin for Shrewsbury School and also created two statues of Edward Elgar at Hereford Cathedral and Broadheath, near Worcester. She said: ‘It is an honour to be shortlisted.’
Les Johnson was born in Australia and studied fine art before coming to Britain. He designed the memorial statue of Brian Clough that was unveiled in Nottingham, and his other work includes Landed, a tribute to the dock workers of the Port of London.