There is treasure hidden in the walls of Birmingham's Barber Institute of the Arts - four stone carvings by the sculptor and stonemason, Gordon Herickx (1900-1953). These are collectively known as The Symbols of the Arts. They fit well with the Birmingham style of public sculpture during the 1930s, and with good reason. Herickx was a pupil of and assistant to William Bloye, the city's number one unofficial municipal artist. And Bloye was pupil of Eric Gill. I think the lineage shows rather well.
Herickx's work greatly impressed those fortunate to come into contact with it during Herickx's short life. Louis MacNeice strenously bundled the Herickx sculpture Cyclamen into the back of his little car and drove it all the way to Cambridge in an effort to flog it to his mate Anthony Blunt. Unfortunately Blunt's taste had changed from the abstract by that time, and the hard-up Herickx family were no better of for Louis's effort.
In July 1953 Herickx had his first one-man show at the Kensington Gallery, London. It seemedto be a success and his Birmingham friends who had moved to the capital insisted on throwing him a party. But Herickx was adamant to return to his family and headed back to Birmingham. That night he died in his sleep. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery held a memorial exhibition the following October. On display were twenty of Herickx's sculptures which was nearly his entire output. One of his works, Unemployed Man, had been shown in Moscow but had failed to be returned.
Herickx did not make a great deal of sculpture, though what he made was well regarded by his contemporaries. His studio was no more than the shed at the bottom of his suburban garden where he worked mainly in the summer because 'in winter he was too tired from hacking the frozen stone in the stone-cutter's yard.' He was also passionate about cinema, so perhaps it is not surprising that his name appears in the list of committee members of the Birmingham Film Society.
Chestnut Bud, 1935
'He read widely and discussed what interested him with wit and zest. He had an engaging gay seriousness and he seemed always to be seeing himself from a slight, half-comic angle.'
Walter Allen, 'As I Was Walked Down New Grub Street'
Gordon Herickx's study of John Hampson's head is currently [May 2018] on display in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.