The artist behind a naked statue of pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green, North London says she was “surprised” by criticism of the work.
The silvered bronze statue by artist Maggi Hambling was unveiled last year–close to where the prominent feminist lived and worked in Newington Green–to howls of outrage.
Writer Caitlin Moran, among others, asked why male intellectuals and historical figures haven’t been celebrated with nudity as other feminists tried to cover up the statue with a t-shirt.
Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Hambling said: “What sort of surprised me was the objection to the naked figure, which as you know was part of the sculpture of Mary Wollstonecraft.
“Part of the objection came from feminists.”
She said the feminists were “denying that they have bodies”, adding: “There has been nude sculpture for time immemorial.”
Discussing the reaction to the sculpture, she said “a lot of people didn’t want the Eiffel Tower in Paris”.
Hambling said it was “rather irritating” that pictures in the media had focused on the naked figure at the top of the sculpture rather than the artwork as a whole.
“People just went in for the tits and the fanny, you know. Typical,” she said.
Hambling said she thinks “more and more people are liking” the sculpture as time goes on, adding: “I never set out to be controversial, how can you set out to be controversial?
“I mean if the thing is controversial, it does show it’s got a bit of life to it.”
She added that her artwork, titled A Sculpture For Mary Wollstonecraft, “did serve its purpose in that so many more people now have asked themselves, ‘Who the hell is Mary Wollstonecraft?’”
“And they have actually found out who she was and what she stood for.”
In her brief life, cut tragically short aged just 38, Wollstonecraft wrote novels that would lay the foundation for modern feminist thought, as well as children’s books and a history of the French Revolution.
She remains best known for 1792’s A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, in which she argued women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education.
She was also a war reporter, a teacher, wrote a daring criticism of a Tory minister, married the “father of Anarchism” and was a fierce republican far ahead of her time.