Field Marshal Montgomery and Oscar Nemon

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Nemon and Montgomery

Closely connected to the men who led the Allies to victory during World War II through his portraits of Churchill and Eisenhower, Oscar Nemon was the natural choice when the Ministry of Defence commissioned a portrait of Field Marshal Montgomery during the 1950s. The only sculptor for whom Lord Montgomery of Alamein sat in his lifetime, the sittings took place largely in Montgomery's garden at Alton in Hampshire. They subsequently became the starting point for the twice life size bronze of the Field Marshal, which stands defiantly outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. Unveiled in 1980, and funded by public subscription, it captures Monty's energy and determination, although these qualities would not always make him the easiest of sitters, as Nemon's unpublished autobiography recalls:

I had my first appointment with him to make the sculpture, Montgomery's first brisk question directed at me in his clipped, military style was — predictably, perhaps — ‘How long will it take you to finish this sculpture?’
I replied that I did not know how many sittings would be necessary.
Impatiently, he probed deeper. ‘Who should know then?’
I said it all depended on the subject, as some portrait sculptures took longer than others and I had no idea how difficult this one would be. ‘All right then,’ he said, ‘How many sittings did the Queen give you?’ ‘Ten,’ I answered nervously. In fact, it was only seven, but I was so surprised by his abrupt question that I became flustered. ‘How long?’ was his next question. ‘About one hour each, approximately,’ I replied. ‘What a waste of time,’ he remarked, with characteristic directness. ‘Anyway, I'll give you ten sittings too.’
As they progressed, these sittings became more informal — even haphazard at times as they took place normally at his home near Bentley in Hampshire and not only were the sessions in his garden but while he was gardening. Some sittings were more like tailor's fittings ’ seated intervals during his restless comings and goings.
I recall some of our conversations with amusement as our quiet exchanges were always tinged with the tension of the Montgomery manner. Compelled to take some interest in his garden activities, I inquired if he thought he had ‘green fingers’. ‘No such thing,’ he replied. ‘Silly idea.’
I realized as I got to know him better that this brevity was not intended to be rude, but a reflection of his cast of mind and of his philosophy. Clearly, luck and superstition played no part in his scheme of things. I was rash enough to ask how much he thought luck counted on the battlefield.
‘No luck at all,’ was the answer. ‘Only hard work and hard thinking.’
Nemon bust of Montgomery

The bust of Monty sold by the Nemon Estate shows him in the distinctive badged beret which became his trademark, having been originally given to him by a soldier when inspecting a tank on the front line in North Africa. Archive material including drawings and photographs relating to the creation of this bust is on display in the Imperial War Museum in London.

Sculpted from life by Oscar Nemon in the 1950s, and reduced by him for reproduction, the portrait is signed on the back with his linked ON signature. Cast by hand in 85% bronze resin, it is individually finished with a verdigris wax patina to age like bronze. It stands 20cm high, 15cm wide, and 12 cm deep, and weighs 2kg. It is sold with two photographs of Nemon sculpting Monty in his garden, and historical information detailing the process.

Click images to enlarge.

UK ONM1 £165.00 + Shipping: £0
EU ONM1 £165.00 + Shipping: £20.00
Rest of World ONM1 £165.00 + Shipping: £20.00
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