Josefina de Vasconcellos in CumbriaJosefina de Vasconcellos was born in 1904. Her father was a wealthy Brazilian diplomat who helped ensure Josefina was able to develop her artistic talents through a childhood shared between England and Brazil.In 1921 she gained a scholarship to the Royal Academy and was soon sufficiently expressive in stone carving to be placed as runner-up in the 1930 Prix de Rome contest. And at the age of 19 she was accepted to the Grand Chaumiere in Paris where she studied under Bourdelle, one of Rodin’s assistants.
In 1930 she was drawn to the artist Delmar Banner, who was also an Anglican lay priest, and whom she later married. He led her to be baptised into the Anglican church, a faith that has run through much of her artistic work.
They adopted two boys, and the family settled in a farmhouse at The Bield in Little Langdale at the heart of the Lakes.She carved in an outhouse at the farm while Delmar painted dramatic landscapes from the summits of the Lakeland fells.
In 1967 through associations with Pelham House approved school in Calder Bridge, West Cumbria the family helped found Outpost Emmaus an outward bound type of centre at Beckstones in the Duddon valley for disadvantaged boys. It was such work that led to Josefina being honoured with the MBE.
left – Detail from Josefina’s Madonna and Child in St Paul’s Cathedral, London
There then followed numerous large commissions that expressed Josefina’s flowing naturalistic carving. This was at a time when mainstream sculptured art was toying with the more abstract styles of Moore and Hepworth.
Among her works outside Cumbria are are ‘Reconciliation’ at Coventry Cathedral and Bradford University, ‘Holy Family’ at Liverpool Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral, ‘Mary and Child’ at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, ‘Nativity’ (at Christmas) at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, London, and many more.
In 1988 illness forced Josefina to leave Little Langdale and for a time she was accommodated at Isel Hall near Cockermouth. Then she was able to find a small cottage and studio at Peggy Hill, Ambleside. She continues her creative work into her 90s.
|Ambleside||St Mary’s Church||In Him was Life|
|Carlisle||The Cathedral||Blessed Virgin and Child|
|Cartmel||The Priory||They Fled by Night
|Greystoke||St Andrew’s Church||Father Forgive|
|Haverigg||Inshore rescue Station||Escape to Light|
|Kendal||Abbot Hall Art Gallery||Portrait of Delmar Banner
Hands of Godrey Mowatt
|Kendal||Parish Church||The Family of Man|
|Keswick||St John’s Church||St Herbert|
|Maryport||St Mary’s Church||The Good Shepherd|
|Rydal||Rydal Hall Gardens||Escape to Light|
|St Bees||St Bega’s Priory||Vision of St Bega|
|St Bees||St Bees School||The Hand|
|Workington||St Mary’s Church, Westfield||Resurrection|
When Josefina was 97 years old, and at that time being the world’s oldest living sculptor, Sir Richard Branson commissioned a £50,000 work from her.
The proposed work, Reconciliation, was the brainchild of the international ministry team at Coventry Cathedral, which worked to reconcile zones of conflict world-wide. It would continue a series by de Vasconcellos, whose other works on the theme can be seen in Coventry Cathedral, at the Berlin Wall and in Hiroshima.
Josefina died peacefully at 6am on Wednesday 20th July 2005, a few months after her 100th birthday, at Orchard Lodge nursing home in Blackpool. She moved there at the end of June after spending most of her life in the Lake District.
She donated three of her sculptures to create a special garden in the grounds of St Bees Priory. The tranquil garden was inspired by Josefina and will be a place for all who have suffered a loss of a young life, before or after birth, to go for comfort.
Two of Josefina’s sculptures, comprising the Vision of St Bega can be found in the Lady Chapel of St Bees Priory, and the picture above is of Josefina with those sculptures on a visit in April 2005.
Related Links for Josefina Alys Hermes de Vasconcellos, sculptor, born October 26 1904; died July 20 2005
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