Three months from today this square in Basingstoke will change forever. Do you know why? Because this is the place where the first Jane Austen statue will stand for all to see. The life-sized bronze sculpture is to be placed in Basingstoke town centre to mark the bicentenary of her death. People will come from all over the world and Janeites will flock to Basingstoke to see it in person, to feel a bit closer to her and to the places that were dear to her, the places she walked around and imagine what she was up to. That shoud happen on July 18th – the very day she left us 200 hundred years ago.
The sculptor commissioned to bring her to life in a life-size bronze statue is Adam Roud – born and raised in Hampshire he went on to study Fine Art in Liverpool at the John Mores University. Now he is back in Hampshire and since 2000 works from a studio and workshop on Lord Portsmouth’s estate. You can learn more about him here: http://www.adamroudsculptor.co.uk/
It all started with these drawings below:
Then in Mr. Roud’s capable hands she starts to come to life. It is said Jane Austen knew Basingstoke well and attended social gatherings at the Assembly Rooms in Market Square and regularly visited family friends. He said it would represent Austen as a “strong-willed and independent character”. The vision he has is that she is walking in the square and someone has just said ‘good morning Jane’.
I just love this concept that Jane Austen is alive and active and vibrant any day you go and see her. She loved long walks and I am sure that, when not writing, she was always running errands and paying visits to her dear friends.
When it comes to her facial features there is always a debate going around about the accuracy and level of likeness of her images. That still incites heated discussions among Jane Austen enthusiasts and academics. The only authentic image he had to base Jane Austen’s face on were (in)famous drawing made by her sister, Cassandra Austen that you can still see in person at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
He also used a silhouette from 1800 believed to be that of our Jane. Not even the family thought that Cassandra’s drawing wasn’t a particularly good likeness, which is what makes drawing up the sculpture very difficult. Mr. Roud declared he’s taken inspiration from every source that I’ve seen to try and get the best interpretation he could. I think he did great, don’t you?
Mr Roud said: “For me, this is a big deal. Jane Austen is such a well-known and loved author worldwide, and I’m getting to make the first statue of her. “Considering this is my first work in the public, I’m nervous to see what people will think of it, but at the same time, it is an honor to be asked to do it.” He also said “She was a real person with her own character and hopefully I can get across she was a headstrong woman of her time, but is relevant to us today because of her novels.”
A maquette of the sculpture was unveiled on January 19th by Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, who has been working with Hampshire Cultural Trust to bring the project to fruition. You can see Ms. Miller and Mr. Roud below posing near the maquette which is the sculptor’s small preliminary model or sketch model from which the statue is created.
“Jane Austen is a writer of worldwide repute,” commented Maria Miller. “Born in the borough, she is a woman who broke the mould in her generation. I am delighted that she is to be recognized in a sculpture by Adam Roud. It is a fitting tribute to her status not just as a local writer, but as one of the finest and most-loved authors the world has known.”
I can’t wait to see it in person! Who else is dying to see it? If I can afford one trip to England this year it will be to see the unveiling (or after that to be able to hug her). I know I am a little nuts but so are lots of us! How about you? Please share your thoughts!
Rita L . Watts