I first came across Joyce Bidder’s work while assembling a range of
sculptures in any media for The Fine Art Society’s 1986 exhibition
Sculpture in Britain Between the Wars. I had conceived the idea for this
show on New Year’s Day the previous year while arranging a group of
white sculptures for a window display on New Bond Street. The group,
mainly plasters, included a 1930s stone carving, Eve by Vernon Hill, and
to complete the ensemble I needed to find a book with a reproduction
of this or a similar piece, so I ransacked our library. By the end of the
morning my desk was piled with every relevant book that I could lay my
hands on, including the London telephone directories.
Attracted by the window, a man came in and showed me a
photograph of a piece of sculpture by Joyce Bidder he wanted to sell.
It looked perfect for the exhibition that was already building up in
my mind’s eye and I went to see it at his office in Covent Garden. The
Roadmakers was a superb relief depicting five muscular men, stripped to
the waist, tugging on a rope; it was signed and dated 1935 and was in
green Westmorland slate, the figures highly polished, the background
dusty with chisel marks showing, and the road surface slightly gilded.
I traced Miss Bidder and her friend Daisy Borne to their studio in
Wimbledon, with its accumulation of half a century’s work in stone,
terracotta, bronze, plaster, ivory and other materials, and mounted a joint
exhibition of their work just before Christmas 1986. On receipt of the
catalogue, with The Iris Pool on the cover, Miss Borne told my colleague
that they had had ‚Äúa little weep‚Äù ‚Äì their lifetimes’ work vindicated.
Commentary by Peyton Skipwith, who worked at The Fine Art Society in New Bond Street for forty-four years and is now a freelance fine art consultant, critic and author specialising in British fine and decorative arts 1870-1940.