Belsky – The Lesson

February 19, 2016

Night and Day, the sculpture of Mother and Child can be seen near the library in Abingdon.
It is at the intersection of Broad Street and Bury Street.

While walking in Sutton Courtney, a few years ago, I noticed the same familiar Mother and Child sculpture, surrounded by trees, and discovered that is where Franta Belsky, the Czech born sculptor, once had his studio.

Entitled The Lesson, the sculpture in Abingdon bears the inscription ‘In memory of Margaret Belsky . She was a well known newspaper cartoonist in the 1960s, and the wife of the sculptor. The Lesson was one of her favourite works.

It was presented to Abingdon by Franta Belsky, in 1989, the year of his wife’s death, and is the second bronze casting.

The first was unveiled in 1959 in Bethnal Green, London. I presume the verdigris one in Sutton Courtney is a prototype. Franta Belsky died in Abingdon Hospital in July 2000.

(Thanks to an Abingdon Herald article on 21 Sept 1989 called “Sculptor’s memory in Bronze” for some of the original information, and a previous blog post here. It is well worth revisiting.)

Filed under: art

51 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. ppjs  |  February 19, 2016 at 10:13 am

    It is a fine sculpture and it’s good to see it featured here.

  • 2. George Haslam  |  February 19, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Yes – it’s in the garden at the Matrix Music School isn’t it. I’m sure Lindsay there would provide a fuller history if wanted.

  • 3. Coggin  |  February 19, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I saw this article back in January that dozens of post-war sculptures are being given listed status and there was “The Lesson” maybe ours is now listed too?

  • 4. DM  |  February 19, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    …unfortunately ours is normally obscured by the Big Issue seller.

  • 5. John Styles  |  February 19, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    @George – when I saw it in Sutton Courtenay it was somewhere in the back roads the other side of the High Street.
    I always think of the bronze one as being ‘the statue of the unknown single mother’

  • 6. Captainkaos2  |  February 20, 2016 at 3:22 am

    John, I think they lived in the cottage on the green next to the Swan pub? It’s just been re thatched ? As for the mother and child statue, wasn’t it given by his wife in gratitude for the care he was given whole in poor health ?

  • 7. ppjs  |  February 20, 2016 at 7:01 am

    I wonder if the Big Issue seller is also a mother – she may provide a fitting commentary….

  • 8. Janet  |  February 20, 2016 at 8:18 am

    I wish they would remove the graffiti on the junction box by the statue. It h as been there for a couple of years.

  • 9. Rachel  |  February 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

    The big issue seller is a mother. she has been pregnant twice since manning her stall.

  • 10. Blanky  |  February 20, 2016 at 11:55 am

    What a fine statue. Abingdon is very lucky to have such a beautiful piece.

  • 11. Rachel  |  February 20, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Another beautiful Belsky sculpture of a mother and child is in Stevenage

    That article states “In each of his works, he placed an empty Guinness bottle, the day’s newspaper, a sixpence, and a note stating that he was the artist.”

    Does anyone know if the Abingdon mother and child contain the same?

  • 12. ppjs  |  February 21, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Perhaps the Big Issue seller is actually in the right place, then! To me, she provides another image of mother and child. Together they challenge how we take for granted those who struggle to provide us with food on the table (men and women) and who teach us our first steps in life.

  • 13. Daniel  |  February 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Just putting it out there….but is having children whilst homeless a little…well..not such a good idea?

  • 14. Iain  |  February 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Selling the big issue doesnt mean you are homeless – just that you have been in the past

  • 15. Julian Annells  |  February 21, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    “The Big Issue offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money; a livelihood.”
    That is from the Big Issue website.

  • 16. Daniel  |  February 21, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Apologies, I didn’t realise.

    From the BI site us says you can be a vendor if:

    Homeless or rough sleeping
    In temporary accommodation
    In danger of losing a home
    Unemployed and facing financial crisis

    But still, it it is a pretty statue.

    When does our big Superdrug open?

  • 17. Captainkaos2  |  February 21, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Rejoice ! Boris has aligned himself to the “out” campaign, no more B I sellers taking the ******** out of the welcome all scenario Dave & Tony have created while perpetuating their egoistical well being !

  • 18. ppjs  |  February 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Sorry, I disagree with Boris; EU needs fixing, but you can’t change a club if you are a non-member.

    Name-calling won’t help in this debate, so while I think BJ is wrong, I am not going to bad mouth him or anyone else who believes we should leave. People read the issues differently, and we should be grown up enough to accept that.

    Meanwhile, I like the statue and the Bi seller; I hope that’s permitted :-)

  • 19. Iain  |  February 21, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Here here paul

  • 20. Julian Annells  |  February 21, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Surely “Hear Hear”, Iain? ;)

  • 21. Daniel  |  February 21, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    The problem with analogies is that they break down. So I don’t get it? What club is this everyone speaks of? I was a member of a club once. I didn’t like it, so I left.

    Unless when people say club, perhaps they mean gang? Perhaps as in ‘gangster’?

    I’m dreading this important vote – no one us going to adequately inform us so we can make a qualified decision; so I’m just going to get all my information from this blog.

    So, so far…we need to be a member of a gang so that we can make it work for us, yes? How’s that been working out for us so far? But, being a member of this gang is the only way we can sell cars that we make, is that it? Is the same gang also putting levies on us for emissions and Glow-ball warmerring? Caused by cars? Or, are we supposed to be building sustainably? That’s good. How many of the Drayton Rd houses have solar panels – is it ALL of them? Hold on…why did Didcot powetstation get blown up again?

    Goodness, I’m confused already!

    …and no one’s said when we’re getting our bigger Superdrug!

  • 22. Iain  |  February 22, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Whoops – apologies for earlier mis-spelling :(

  • 23. DM  |  February 22, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    “The Big Issue offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money; a livelihood.”

    It also offers them the opportunity to hang their coat and Greggs bag on the womans head of the Belski statue.

  • 24. Captainkaos2  |  February 22, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    Spot on DM !

  • 25. Angela  |  February 23, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Daniel, since you dont know under what circumstances the BI seller got pregnant it’s hardly fair to make a judgement.
    Selling the Big issue is a job. A precarious one, but still its work, not begging. They are not allowed to beg.
    Sellers have to pay half the sale price for their magazines, which means making a judgement each week on how many they expect to sell. Like that lemons game that used to very popluar with school children, its a bit of a gamble. On a good week they may be sold out quickly and be kicking themselves for not buying more. On a bad week they will be left with useless copies.

    In front of the statue is an apt place for a mother working, under trying conditions, to feed and clothe her children. I hope the artist would agree. Its not like the BI seller is there all the time, permanently obscurng the statue.

    Go on buy a BIg Issue, it’s a good read.

  • 26. Captainkaos2  |  February 23, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Angela you’re more naive than I took you for, if selling the B I were a proper job then she would be paying tax and N I contributions and I doubt that very much, and if pleading to every Tom Dick and Mary who walks by isn’t begging then I don’t know what is? and as for ” judging” how many B I’ she might sell? Well that’s easy, all the gang master does is take as many as his licence allows ( yes the bonifide sellers should display their licence) and distribute them amongst his Amy of sellers ! Next time you’re walking along St Giles at tea time you can see them being picked up in top of the range BMW’ and taken back to High Wycombe and London !

  • 27. Daniel  |  February 23, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Was she in a loving, habitually sound, financially stable relationship?

  • 28. Iain  |  February 23, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Steve (CK) and Daniel, I hope you never find yourselves in such a difficult situation that your best option to make ends meet is to sell the Big Issue. What a comfort I’m sure you’d find it to have two ill informed individuals from your local community casting aspersions on a well read web site as to acceptability of your actions, your tax status and the nature of your personal relationships.

    Shame on the pair of you – you should be deeply embarrassed by your comments, and if the big issue seller is reading this I hope you know that these people do not speak for the community.

  • 29. Daniel  |  February 24, 2016 at 12:33 am

    I think you are a bit confused. I have no issue with, erm, the Big Issue.

    However, the criteria you need to meet in order to sell the BI do not place you in a favourable position to have a baby; do they? Or…do they? I don’t see what is wrong with having that opinion, other than some people may disagree with it. But I am not embarrassed for thinking it preferable that a baby, any baby, would be better if born in stability, rather than flux

    Often my opinions can be quite fickle. I can be swayed by any decent argument, in either direction – perhaps I’m an “opinion whore”, giving my agreement to whoever shouts loudest or last…but in this instance….I feel no shame in wishing the very best of all things for new babies – I don’t think this is an ill informed opinion to hold, and I stand by it.

  • 30. Julian Annells  |  February 24, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Hear Hear, Daniel

  • 31. Iain  |  February 24, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Daniel – i am not commenting on your opinion as to the rights and wrongs of having children. Happy to argue moral philosophy another time.

    I am disagreeing with your making judgement on the family situation of another specific human being in a public forum when you have little or know knowledge of her circumstances.

    Just because you are able to doesn’t mean you have to.

  • 32. Captainkaos2  |  February 24, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Iain, nothing lasts forever and indeed I, you and anyone else could find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances, but selling the BI is supposed to be a temporary means of financial support, a very lower rung on a very steep ladder, it was set up for the genuine homeless, people with drink & drug problems, with social issues, even runaways, it’s not supposed to be an easy source of perminant income, if you really want to reach out to genuine people who have become unfortunate victims of unfortunate circumstances then may I suggest a visit to the people living in tents opposite the anchor? You won’t find any of them hiding an I pad under their clothing or going to and fro in a top mark car! Talk also to the guy livining on a barge, he had a complete breakdown after his wife left him, clearing him out in the process, he as no power, no heat and no running water, spare a thought for him next time it’s minus 6 and miss B I is tucked up in bed, get real Iain take the rose coloured specks off, the B I seller is taking advantage of people’s good nature, she’s overstayed her welcome there and is now taking the Micky,

  • 33. Angela  |  February 24, 2016 at 8:56 am

    CaptainKaos, of course I know BI sellers must have a licence badge and if they are not wearing it and I’ve not seen it I ask to. There is no gang aster. Sellers have to go to the their local distribution point to buy their own copies.
    I don’t know about the St Giles sellers but the ones I talk to outside M&S and the High St, pick their copies up at the Oxford Centre.
    The Market stall holders shout out to people, Is that also begging? Why is it ok for stall holders to verbally draw attention to what they are selling, but not BI sellers?

    Daniel, women don’t always choose to be pregnant, some have pregnancy thrust upon them. I’ve no idea what sort of relationship she is in.

  • 34. Iain  |  February 24, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Steve – i repeat you know little or nothing of this lady’s situation and I think you should stop broadcasting views of a personal nature.

    We have a perfectly good judicial system if you have evidence of any wrongdoing – last i looked this site was not some sort of kangaroo court of public opinion.

  • 35. Angela  |  February 24, 2016 at 10:52 am

    An easy source of income CaptainKaos? I don’t think so.

  • 36. Daniel  |  February 24, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Can’t see where I made such a judgement, so I am still unsure of what has aggrieved you so.

    You are right however; this is a wonderful blog. One of the greatest things about it (as well as others Abingdon First, Spotted Abingdon and all the rest), is that one can either choose to merely look at the pretty pictures with a fixed grin or you can also scroll to the comments section to take a peek “at what people think”. That’s what the comments are for. The added beauty of this is the warts n all nature of it. The opportunity to think, to ask, to question, to vocalise…to even offend (you know…if you get offended…nothing *actually* happens to you!) and of course to have your opinion batted this way and that, to be picked apart, to be bolstered and agreed with, to be knocked down and ridiculed. It IS absolutely a kangaroo court for public opinion. Thats what the comments section on a blog is!! We’re adults….we can all handle and appreciate this, surely?

    This is why Janet is my hero! Not because of WHAT she says, but because she embodies and embraces the comments section.

    It bothers me not that you may disagree or even dislike what I say. And I agree I may be ill informed…but within that remit I can still chose to have an opinion. And you can chose to argue against it. But…we are all ill informed Iain, at some level. What you are suggesting is that you yourself should not voice an opinion on, say, the current Guildhall plans, as it would be impossible for you to now be fully abreast of the situation…so…any opinion you may have is ill informed.

    Is it ill informed, or just based on what you think? But I can factor that in when I consider your opinion and if I choose to respond to it

    I guess my ‘question’ was general, rather than specific. But, as we are now being specific, and as none of us truely know this lady’s circumstances …we are all as ill informed as each other.

    Angela; yes, you are right.

  • 37. DM  |  February 24, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Don’t be fooled people! The B I seller was dropped off at 8.30 Saturday 13th Feb in a Mercedes outside Masons.

  • 38. Iain  |  February 24, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    I have no objections Daniel to your offering up your opinions and as you say I frequently share mine.

    I do however think that it is different when you start to comment on the personal circumstances of individuals (post 27) that is different. None of us here know her circumstances and frankly I’d feel deeply offended if you started to question whether, for example, I had started my family in ‘a loving, habitually sound and funancially stable relationship’ – frankly it would be none if your business.

  • 39. Daniel  |  February 24, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    …that wasn’t a judgement. It was a question. I was hoping to become informed.

    As I said, although I wouldn’t look to offend you, or anyone, on purpose…why would you be deeply offended? And, if you were offended (intentionally or not); so what? Nothing happens. “Sticks and stones…” still holds true!! Being offended is purely subjective. If you questioned me on the same…I wouldn’t be offended at all. I am offended everyday. I am deeply offended by Boy Bands.

    But you are right, it would be none of my business.

    Please can we get back to the real Big Issue – when does the new Superdrug open?

  • 40. Captainkaos2  |  February 24, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    D M? Music to my ears ! Iain, as for not broadcasting my opinion, is that not what you’ve been doing all along? Pot v kettle eh ?

  • 41. Iain  |  February 24, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I havent broadcast any negative opinions, here or anywhere else that I can recall, about the morality of an individual’s personal circumstances – even couched in thinly disguised questions or weak witticisms.

    I was raised that you shouldnt say things about someone that you wouldnt be happy to say to their face.

  • 42. Daniel  |  February 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    …that’s a fairly strong judgement to make on my upbringing Iain.

  • 43. DM  |  February 24, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Give it a rest you two! It’s just a statue!

  • 44. Julian Annells  |  February 24, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    A “negative opinion” is surely subjective Iain? Your opinions of Daniel and CC are surely negative to them? (“two ill informed individuals ………… casting aspersions”) For all YOU know, they may well be better informed than you actually are on this or any other particular subject? But to call them “Ill informed” I think that is quite offensive? But that is MY opinion on what you have said…and in this country, like it or not, (at the moment), we DO have freedom of speech, so surely they are entitled to THEIR opinions, just as much as you are entitled to yours?
    And as for your comment, “Shame on the pair of you – you should be deeply embarrassed”….WHY should they??!!
    They have expressed an opinion…whether you like it or not!

  • 45. Julian Annells  |  February 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    DM..It is a Blog, with a comments page. That is what a comments page is for…Comments.

  • 46. DM  |  February 26, 2016 at 11:19 am

    …..and trying to get the last word

  • 47. Daniel  |  February 26, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    indeed DM.

  • 48. Jennifer  |  February 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Lindsey has just given the lovely background story on the statue in the garden of Matrix.

    I will ask her to post a comment on here about it.

  • 49. Daniel  |  March 12, 2016 at 1:02 am

    I look forward to reading it!

  • 50. Michael  |  March 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    There’s another statue “Joyride” by Franta Belsky in the New Town cente in Stevenage, Herts., where I grew up and went to school. Living in Abingdon now, maybe I’m following him around!


  • 51. m.hall  |  November 28, 2016 at 12:45 am

    I live in Abingdon but recently moved to London for uni and went past the statue in Bethnal Green today where I remembered this blog post.

Leave a Comment


(required), (Hidden)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

TrackBack URL  |  RSS feed for comments on this post.

Blog Started on 26th Dec 2005


Local Blogroll (Active) Local Blogroll (In-Active) Abingdon Sites