Flora Bronze Sculpture by Gerald Laing at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in Scotland

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at the bronze sculpture Flora by Gerald Laing at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in Scotland. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

Flora is a bronze sculpture by Gerald Laing which was created December – April 1982 and this is one of an edition of ten that you will find around the world in private collections, at auction, or in galleries and museums. The gallery label tells us that “This sculpture shows Laing in a more naturalistic mode than The American Girl”, which refers to another of Laing’s bronzes, also at the Inverness Museum which we will be looking at in a future episode of Art, Culture and Books! The style surely is naturalistic as we see the beautiful Flora, who was the daughter of Sir Hugh Fraser and Lady Antonia Fraser, reclining relaxingly.

For those of you watching who are in the upper classes you may have heard of Antonia Fraser when she gave the more humble ranks an insight into high society with her titillating personally written articles, because this is the same Antonia Fraser who was married to Sir Hugh Fraser, a British Conservative politician and who embarked on a passionate love affair with the famous playwright Harold Pinter. If you have been to the National Portrait Gallery in London you may have seen a painting of her other daughter called “Lady Antonia Fraser with her daughter, Natasha” by Olwyn Bowey. What an exciting life and an incredible family! Her diaries were serialised by the Daily Mail in 2010 which described them in this amusing way; “The story of Lady Antonia Fraser’s secret affair with the playwright Harold Pinter, which ended their marriages but brought them a lifetime of passion, is the most eagerly awaited book of the year. On Saturday, we revealed the reckless abandon of the night they met and fell in love.

Today, in the second part of our exclusive serialization from her diaries, we reveal how they began living together and how they dealt with the disapproval of their affair – not least from her appalled parents, Lord and Lady Longford.” The sculpture of her daughter Flora was purchased from the artist with grant aid from the National Fund for Acquisitions in 1995. Flora Fraser, the subject of this sculpture is an English writer of historical biographies and still so beautiful to this day! I estimate she was around 25 years old when this was originally created. Gerald Laing, who lived in the Scottish Highlands was born in 1936 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He burst onto the British Pop Art scene in 1962 while still immersed in his art education at Saint Martin’s School of Art. His painting, “Brigitte Bardot” (1963), made its mark at the Royal Society of British Artists’ Galleries during the Young Contemporaries 63 exhibition in 1963. Following this, Laing ventured to the United States in the same year, forging connections with influential artists such as Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Roy Lichtenstein. His summer was spent working alongside Robert Indiana. By 1965, he shifted his focus from abstraction to sculpture, a transition that solidified his standing as one of the leading figurative sculptors in the country by 1973. A retrospective of Laing’s work up to that point was showcased at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh in 1993. Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, Laing delved into anti-war paintings, drawing inspiration from the haunting photographs of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib. This marked a notable return to Pop Art. His artistic trajectory continued with a series of paintings featuring Amy Winehouse, followed by the creation of an iconic print of Kate Moss. These works showcased his characteristic simplification of form.

Gerald Laing died in 2011 and his impact has endured and will continue to do so. Inverness, located in the Scottish Highlands, is widely acknowledged as the northernmost city in the United Kingdom. With an approximate population of around 50,000, it serves as the administrative centre of the Highland Council Area.

Inverness is known as the ‘Capital of the Highlands’. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is located on Castle Wynd near Inverness Castle, a site with a history dating back to 1057. The original museum opened in 1881, focusing on Highland and Jacobite collections. The museum covers the history and heritage of the Highlands, featuring Scottish geology, natural history, and Highland archaeology on the ground floor. The first floor explores more recent Highland history, including Jacobite memorabilia, Inverness silver, Highland weapons, and bagpipes.

By Anthony King (c)