Thursday 6 February 2020


A guest post by Arthur T...

William Mitchell, sculptor, 1925-2020

From the Open Thread the other day:
On 22nd January 2020, the BBC News website ran the following story: 
'Bracknell's William Mitchell Mural to move to car park' 
And yet, so far as I can see, the BBC have failed to report the death of Bill Mitchell, an innovative English sculptor on 30th January 2020. Why might that be? - probably just sloppy journalism. Clue: He was a deeply religious Roman Catholic whose work includes the magnificent Stations of the Cross at Clifton Cathedral, and the strongly figured doors at Liverpool Metropolitan RC Cathedral.

In the days since this comment there hasn't been, as far as I know, any report from the BBC. 

To my mind, Mitchell is an under recognised English artist with all the traits that the BBC would normally find irresistible. He battled his way into the established art world through his time at the Royal College of Art. In his use of heavily modelled surfaces for large scale works such as murals and cladding, Bill Mitchell created an unrivalled individual abstract style of great originality.

He was born in Maida Vale London, but childhood ill health which resulted in extensive periods in hospital and convalescent homes denying him a formal general education. However, his self-funded studies took him to the Southern College of Art in Portsmouth, and then to the Royal College of Art in London. Awards won whilst at the latter enabled Mitchell to study in Rome, where he spent time at the offices of Pier Luigi Nervi (famed for the sculptural qualities of his flamboyant concrete structures). His subsequent appointment as design artist to assist the London County Council (LCC) Architects Department led him to associate with many of the leading architects. engineers and building contractors of his day, including Frederick Gibberd, Basil Spence, Building Design Partnership, Ove Arup and Contractor John Laing (whose photographic archive has recently been made public).

Mitchell’s Stations in Clifton RC Cathedral were the result of a long design process, when after agreement of details in preparation, a poignant series of charcoal sketches required approval from Rome before acceptance of the design work and installation of the panels could be completed.

Mitchell has written movingly about his depiction of the cruelty of the Passion embodied in his work. His spiritual experiences as a Catholic are reinforced by those of Arthur Dooley and Seán Crampton, each of whom reported an uplifting experience associated with the work in hand.

Last Supper

If Mitchell’s work were to be put on a par with that of John Piper or Graham Sutherland both of whom carried out religiously themed commissions, then the question must be why do the BBC refuse to report his death. Imagine the fuss if anything happened to Banksy, who in my opinion could not hold a candle to Mitchell. Mitchell’s urban public art, (much of which is listed) such as that in Bracknell, represents an important facet of mid-century design.

ITBBCB? finds the BBC complicit in the anti-Semitism surrounding the Labour Party and London’s ethnically changing population. Their anti-Christian position is a great threat not only to the religion itself, but also to important parts of our cultural heritage.

Increasingly, I find the prospect of London as the holder of our heritage worrying. Religious art is under threat, if not of destruction, then equally of being held in vaults where nobody will be able to enjoy these treasures due to strict unwritten rules for curation.


  1. Artists are either in or out...I guess it was ever thus.

    I know nothing about Bill Mitchell. His work looks interesting. His first mistake was probably having a very lovely but uninteresting "English" name. That would not have made him welcome in the world of the pseudocracy, where people like Will Gompertz (interesting name!) dwell.

    And I get the impression he was more interested in art (expressing and encapsulating what it means to be a conscious human being) than virtue signalling. That also would have got him marked down.

    I notice with the recent Kirk Douglas tributes his role in rehabilitating Stalinist writers into the Hollywood machine is given more points almost than his acting abilities.

    1. The BBC's coverage of art is only seldom about the art itself. They like Banksy because of his manufactured mystery and his edgy anarchic form of vandalism, they like Grayson Perry for his transvestite TV persona. Coverage of art is much like the BBC's coverage of music, anyone can do it - it's the Blue Peter methodology.

      By avoiding discussion about the art itself, Gomphertz for one will concentrate on the political and funding issues behind the piece ahead of the content - particularly the celebrity potential of the artist.

      A self-funded Royal College of Art prolific artist such as Mitchell would fail to be recognised on most counts - except that his work has an urban grittiness that eclipses Banksy, thus they are able to write about the Bracknell piece without reference to the person.

    2. Why not: "Banksy whose real name is Robin Gunningham"?

    3. Ah yes, Banksy who benefited from a private education. He's probably got a BUPA policy as well. And holidays behind razor wire in South Africa when not in his second home in France. Very edgy! :)

  2. Thank you for that.
    This noble man joins other non-persons in the BBC Black Book.

  3. On this general subject, another one they never mentioned in the Brief Lives prog was Robert Conquest.
    Who wrote a seminal book on Stalin's Great Terror, when the history of that period was still quite murky. It was a very influential book, one of the reasons Conquest was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (among many other awards). But for some reason (telling tales on Stalin, besmirching the good name of socialism) he was given a complete miss by the programme, whereas of course Lefty historians like Hobsbawm got the full honorifics!


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.