'If Londoners chosen at random were asked to name their favourite among the pieces of public sculpture adorning their city, many would cite the remarkable statue which sits just on the bend of the River Thames by Albert Bridge - David Wynne’s work, Boy with a Dolphin' (D. Elliot, Boy with a Dolphin: The Life and Work of David Wynne, London, 2010, p. 9).
David Wynne was a self-taught artist who established his studio on Campden Hill, Holland Park in the early 1950s. He is recognised for his portraits of Her Majesty the Queen, Guy the Gorilla, Cresta Rider (the 6 foot iconic sculpture in Saint Moritz, a maquette of which was sold in Christie's, South Kensington, 14 July 2011 for £109,250), and his most important royal project: the central section of the Queen Elizabeth gate installed at Hyde Park Corner in commemoration of the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday in 1990. However, the most iconic and monumental of Wynne’s sculptures is undoubtedly the graceful Boy with a Dolphin (1974) which is situated on the Chelsea side of Albert Bridge.
Wynne’s famous Boy with a Dolphin has come to be recognised as one of London’s most identifiable landmarks. It was first unveiled in October 1975, and the concept follows an earlier sculpture, Girl with a Dolphin, outside the Guoman Tower Hotel near St Katherine’s Dock. Boy with a Dolphin is a remarkable sculpture and is one of the most complex that the artist ever achieved: the structure projects into the air in an apparent defiance of gravity, the sense of movement and grace of the boy, and the dolphin, in perfect balance.
At 1:6 of the size of the Albert Bridge piece, the present sculpture was the first, and smallest size of the iconic piece that Wynne conceived, in 1972. The second largest size was conceived a year later, in 1973, at 1:3 of the size of the Embankment sculpture (cast 5/6 sold Christie's, South Kensington, 23 March 2017 for £353,000 - a world record for the artist at auction). And the largest version was completed in 1974 in an edition of three: one for the Embankment; another now in Chestnut Place Plaza, Worcester, Massachusetts; and the third outside the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Wynne’s passion for celebrating the living form is epitomised in the strong, beautiful sweeping form of Boy with a Dolphin. The artist had a great belief in celebrating living creatures, having studied Zoology at Cambridge. Wynne's 'love of drawing animals and birds was all-consuming. He remembers constantly observing what he saw around him, seized with a growing conviction that his future life’s work would somehow be involved with the natural world' (ibid., p. 15). Wynne did not believe that a photograph sufficed for his evocations of naturalistic forms and indeed whilst working on Boy with a Dolphin he spent hours under water watching the animal’s movements in California, and in the Dolphinarium, then in London's Oxford Street.
The boy was modelled upon Wynne's son, Roland, who was 9 years old at the time: Wynne recalls his thoughts in swimming with dolphins: ‘Dolphins would actually give one a ride as in the sculpture. Often I thought what fun it would be in the open sea, particularly for a boy such as my younger Roland, who would be light enough to be towed long distances. Thus the idea was born’ (ibid., p. 83).
We are very grateful to Nicola Bennett for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.