Charles Wheeler (1892-1974)

From the New York Times of Aug. 23, 1974:

“LONDON, Aug. 22 — Sir Charles Wheeler, the sculptor, died tonight at his home in Mayfield, Sussex. His age was 82.

Sir Charles, whose traditionalist works appeared on many major public memorials and buildings, was president of the Royal Academy for 10 years from 1956. He was the first sculptor to hold that office.

Perhaps his best known works in London are the Jellicoe Fountain (see image above) in Trafalgar Square and the sculptures on the Bank of England building and South Africa House.

His most controversial pieces were the two nude male figures symbolizing speed and power over the entrance of the *English Electric Company‘s headquarters here.

This work was unveiled in 1960. The stark realism of the figures was unacceptable to executives of the First National City Bank of New York, which took over the premises in 1971. The figures were removed and have not been seen in public since.

Although Sir Charles was mild‐mannered man and not given to the sharp pronunciamentos beloved of some presidents of the Royal Academy, he did let fly once at Picasso. “Eight hundred square feet of absurdity,” he said about the huge mural for the UNESCO building in Paris.

Sir Charles studied art in Wolverhampton, in the English midlands, his birthplace, and in London. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914 and became an Academician in 1940. He was knighted in 1958.

Sir Charles was a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission from 1946 to 1952. This is the organization that decides, among other things, whether a work of art is too rare to be sold for shipment overseas. He was also a trustee of the Tate Gallery and president of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. He was awarded the gold medal of the United States Academy of Design in 1963.

He published his autobiography, “High Relief,” in 1968.

He married Muriel, the daughter of A. A. Bourne. They had a son and a daughter.”

From the website of the Science Museum Group:

*”The English Electric Company was formed on 14th December 1918 and over the following year acquired Dick, Kerr & Company of Preston, Willans & Robinson of Rugby, the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Company of Bradford, and Coventry Ordnance Works. After the First World War the various German owned Siemens works were distributed to different UK companies and in November 1919 English Electric acquired the Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works at Stafford, which became the company headquarters in 1931…

1930 saw the closure of Preston West works and the transfer of traction electrical design and manufacture to the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing works. The Westinghouse influence included top management changes with Sir H Mensforth becoming chairman and George Nelson managing director. Both had been with British Westinghouse at Trafford Park. The early 1930s saw a remarkable improvement in the company’s finances and domestic appliance manufacture was started at Bradford and Stafford. In 1936 they began production of diesel locomotives at Preston and were later involved in the production of the Deltic locomotive for British Rail, presaging the end of steam traction in the UK…

In 1942 English Electric acquired D. Napier & Son Ltd and Marconi in 1946. The company went on to extend their railway interests with the acquisition of the Vulcan Foundry and Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn Ltd in 1955. The company tried to take over The General Electric Company (GEC) in 1960 but failed…

In 1961 English Electric took over Dorman Diesels Ltd which in turn had acquired W. G. Bagnall Ltd. In 1966 English Electric Diesels merged with Ruston and Hornsby which already included Paxmans. This company eventually became GEC Diesels. Elliott Automation was acquired in 1967. The following year GEC took over English Electric, ending its independent existence.”

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