I’d never come across the sculptor Phillip Lindsay-Clark before, not until I found his signature on a great piece of public art. This piece differs from his usual creations, which tended to be mainly ecclesiastical or memorials.
Lindsay-Clark was a Londoner born in 1889, his Father, Robert was also a sculptor. Phillip studied at the Cheltenham School of Art from 1905 to 1910 and then from 1910 to 1914 studied at the City and Guilds School in Kennington.
The piece of art that sparked my curiosity is in Widegate Street in Spitalfields. Clark completed four sculptures representing bakers on the front of the premises of the 1926 built Nordheim Model Bakery. At the turn of the 20th century, this area was largely Jewish and was home to several Jewish bakeries. The four bakers mark the location of one of the most famous, the Nordheim, which rustled up beigels and other Jewish delights for those who lived in the surrounding alleyways and beyond.
These sculptures also came with some controversy. Many locals felt that they did not simply depict bakers going about their daily routine, but were rather subtly hinting at religious persuasions – and not Jewish ones.
Clark, who later became a Carmelite monk, was renowned for his ecclesiastical statues and often referenced religious iconography in his other work. Many people thought that these pieces were no different. It was noted that the baker carrying bags of flour is in a pose similar to that of Jesus carrying the cross. The type of bread itself came under criticism as looking far less Jewish and Eastern European, but rather more English. The bakers seem to be preparing traditional cottage loaves, not traditional Jewish unleavened bread, as the Nordheim would have done.
In a period where there was enormous tensions between different populations in the East End, this piece of public art was actually covered up and hidden, due to the controversy it caused.
It is thought that Lindsay-Clark’s ecclesiastical body of work and his later entry into a monastery are connected to his experiences in the trenches during the First World War, in which he won the Distinguished Service Order, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime. The citation reads; “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the left flank company of the battalion. When the enemy broke through on his left he organised a defensive flank. Finding a gap on the left he filled and held it with some of his own men and of the unit on his left. He personally led a charge against the advancing enemy and dispersed them, and later repelled another attack. He was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the head, but though dazed continued to command his company for two days until relieved.“