Petition against Jacob Epstein's Rima

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

In 1925, "Rima", a bas-relief carved by Sir Jacob Epstein was installed in Hyde's Park, London. This modern art sculpture caused a great controversy regarding its nudity. Arthur Conan Doyle signed a petition with other noted persons to remove this "artistic anarchy."

"Rima" by Jacob Epstein, in Hyde's Park, London.

The Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary is a carved stone memorial commemorating the 19th century writer and naturalist, William Hudson. He helped to establish the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and campaigned for wild areas in parks, at a time when they were always neat and tidy. The carving represents Rima, the child goddess of nature who featured in Hudson's novel Green Mansions, published in 1904. Today, this area is a refuge for smaller birds, such as robin, tits, blackbird, wren and goldcrest.

In his autobiography "Let There Be Sculpture" (1940), Jacob Epstein himself described the controversy in his book, and especially the petition:

A letter demanding the removal of the memorial with as little delay as possible appeared in the Morning Post [november 1924], signed by a number of noted persons, including Lady Frances Balfour, Hilaire Belloc, E. F. Benson, the Hon. Stephen Coleridge, the Hon. John Collier, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Frank Dicksee, President of the Royal Academy; Sir Philip Burne-Jones, Sir Edwin Ray Lankester, Sir David Murray, R.A., Alfred J. Munnings, R.A., Sir Bernard Partridge, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Her Highness the Ranee Margaret of Sarawak and H. Avray Tipping.

This manifesto declared that Epstein's design was "by universal consent so inappropriate and even repellent that the most fitting course open to the authorities would be to have it removed bodily. It would be a reproach to all concerned if future generations were allowed to imagine that this piece of artistic anarchy in any way reflected the true spirit of the age."