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Walking Men emerge from the ground at Blenheim Palace

Visitors to Blenheim Palace will notice some recent new arrivals in the shape of British sculptor Laurence Edwards’ striking bronze figures, Walking Men, which will be on display until June 10. ​​​

Walking Men Pic: Pete Seaward
Walking Men Pic: Pete Seaward

Edwards said of his creation: “These five 8ft ancient bronze figures pass through an iconic English view, on their search for a place, where have they come from, where are they going, what are they thinking?” ​

The eight-feet tall figures are seen to be anti-heroic and seem to have come from the earth itself. Branches, leaves and clods of clay are woven through them, making it unclear where human and ground begin and end. ​

The raw materials from which they have been cast, have been pushed, pulled and gouged into shape ‘with a visceral energy that makes the artist’s act of creation palpable’. ​

Blenheim Palace managing director Heather Carter said: ”We are delighted to welcome Laurence Edwards' five Walking Men to Blenheim Palace. ​

“These remarkable pieces set against the backdrop of the Palace allow our visitors to experience art at its most incredible within an awe-inspiring setting. This installation is with us until June 10, and we encourage people to visit us quickly to enjoy and appreciate it." ​

Walking Men Pic: Pete Seaward
Walking Men Pic: Pete Seaward

Home to the Dukes of Marlborough since 1705, Blenheim Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Set in more than 2,000 acres of Capability Brown landscaped parkland and designed by Vanbrugh in the Baroque style, it was financed by Queen Anne on behalf of a grateful nation, following the first Duke of Marlborough’s triumph over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. ​

Today it houses one of the most important and extensive collections in Europe, which includes portraits, furniture, sculpture and tapestries. ​

Blenheim Palace is also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and it was his father who described the vista on entering the Estate from the village of Woodstock as the ‘finest view in England’.

Walking Men Pic: Pete Seaward
Walking Men Pic: Pete Seaward

Laurence Edwards’ practice has long been preoccupied by the entwining of man, nature and time. One of the few sculptors who casts his own work, he is fascinated by human anatomy and the metamorphosis of form and matter that governs the lost-wax process. ​

The driving force behind his work is bronze, an alloy that physically and metaphorically illustrates entropy, the natural tendency of any system in time to tend towards disorder and chaos. His sculptures express the raw liquid power of bronze, its versatility, mass and evolution, and the variety of process marks he retains tell the story of how and why each work came to be. ​

In November 2021, Edwards installed a 26-foot-high sculpture, alongside the A12 highway in Suffolk, called Yoxman. This colossal figure embodies his fascination between the human figure and the environment; he is part tree, cove, cliff and figure. Organic matter is built into the casting process; a detritus of leaves, branches, stone and rope. ​ The patina and colouring of the sculpture will, in time, reflect the nearby cliffs.

Drawing together the movement of time from the ancient past through the present and looking towards the future. Reflecting on this work, Edwards describes “in some ways this figure deals with the crossover from a kind of male triumphalism to a more reticent, unsure confused state, battered and freighted by history, this evocation of maleness looks towards the ground, muffled, buckled and scarred, bearing witness to a complicated history evaluating what role is possible in the future”. ​

Based in Suffolk, Edwards studied sculpture at Canterbury College of Art and bronze casting at the Royal College of Art with Sir Antony Caro. After winning a Henry Moore Bursary, the Angeloni Prize for Bronze Casting and an Intach Travelling Scholarship, he studied traditional casting techniques in India and Nepal, an experience that not only influenced his treatment of form and technique, but also gave him the necessary tools to establish his own atelier and foundry ​

In 2006, Edwards won the Royal Society of Portrait Sculpture Award, and became an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 2012. In November 2019, Man of Stones was unveiled at the Sainsbury Centre in Norfolk. ​ In 2018, Edwards was commissioned by Doncaster Council to create a sculpture that celebrates the lives of those who worked in the collieries around Doncaster. ‘A Rich Seam’ was unveiled in Print Office Street in 2021. Major exhibitions of his work have been held at Messums West (2022) and Orange Regional Gallery in 2023.

His ‘Walking Men’ series was presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia in 2023. ​

Blenheim Palace Gardens

Blenheim Palace’s Formal Gardens offer a treat for all the senses. Designed to delight throughout the centuries, they offer soothing seasonal sights, sounds, scents and sensations all year round and are spectacular in the summer.

The Gardens are in a continuous state of change, now being finely curated by visionary new head gardener Andy Mills who is drawing on the Garden’s extensive heritage to bring rediscovered treasures to the fore for visitors.

Created over the centuries by esteemed garden designers such as Henry Wise and Achille Duchêne, Blenheim Palace’s Formal Gardens capture different horticultural styles from across the ages.

You can experience an extensive variety of features as you wander through the Gardens, including the magnificent and calming Water Terraces, the Duke's Private Italian Garden, the tranquil Secret Garden with all of its hidden treasures, the Churchill Memorial Garden and the beautifully delicate Rose Garden, at its peak in the summer months.

There is also an accessible path down to the Formal Gardens from the West Courtyard, so that everyone can enjoy the stunning views across the gardens and lake.

A Formal Gardens Audio Tour is a good way to learn more about the gardens as you explore them at your own pace.

The Gardens are open daily from 10am to 5.45pm. Tickets are £22.50 for the park and gardens, or for £35 you can buy a pass to the palace, park and gardens that is valid for a whole year, enabling return visits to fully immerse yourself in the gardens as they transform throughout the year.

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