During an official visit to the UK the mayor of Oamaru in New Zealand, Robert Milligan, was charmed by Sir George Frampton’s portrayal of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, now an iconic homage to J. M. Barrie’s novel of the same name. Following this, he reached out to the Scottish sculptor Thomas Clapperton, renowned for his sculpture of Robert the Bruce at Edinburgh Castle and his skilful execution of numerous war memorials after the Great War. One commission was for the North Otago War Memorial; and the other for Wonderland.
The influence from Frampton’s Pan are clear in Wonderland: a conical base with mystical fairies, pixies and woodland creatures perching amongst the naturalistic rockery; the charming innocence of the figures in search of adventure. Clapperton, however, opts for a more dynamic rendition of the piece, as the figures interact with the wonderland they have just discovered below them. The girl, perhaps a representation of J.M. Barrie’s Wendy, sits on the edge of the rock face and delights in the fantasy world below. The boy, eagerly peering over the edge, is about to be drawn in to the dreamlike world by one fairy, reaching out to touch the tip of his foot, as if inviting the children into Neverland.
Upon its completion in 1926, Robert Milligan gifted the piece to the children of Oamaru, New Zealand, where it still stands today in the Wonderland Garden. This bronze reduction, offered in our Wednesday 1st April online only Decorative Arts auction in Edinburgh, marks Clapperton’s diversity as a sculptor, stepping away from more sombre memorial compositions to stir up fond memories of the joys of childhood.
Decorative Arts: Design since 1860 | Wednesday 1st April | Online Only