Monument record MYO4348 - Dryad Sculpture by Austin Wright

Summary

Austin Wright was among the most talented sculptors working in the later C20. The work ‘Dryad’ was installed in 1984 beside a rectangular pool and against the yew trees of the topiary garden adjacent to the C16 manor house of Heslington Hall (Grade II*-listed). It is located within Heslington Conservation Area. A dryad is a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology. The sculpture, in cast and welded aluminium, comprises a ring-like head and flowing body; a culmination of forms developed by Wright throughout his career. Wright had begun to produce large-scale works in aluminium in the 1960s and achieved considerable skill in using the material, mastering the technique of argon arc welding where two pieces can be joined together at an absolute minimal point when reaching temperatures in excess of 6,000 degrees centigrade. The method allowed him to achieve a combination of height and delicacy of form in many of his sculptures. Dryad represents both an eloquent climax and a summation of Wright’s career, holding an important place within the artist’s oeuvre. It is a dynamic sculpture of high aesthetic quality and workmanship. The sculpture serves as a modern intervention within the oldest part of the historic landscape associated with the university, helping to bridge it with the 1960s college buildings.

Location

Grid reference SE 6261 5038 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Civil Parish Heslington, City of York, North Yorkshire
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Map

Type and Period (1)

Full Description

Austin Wright was among the most talented sculptors working in the later C20.
The work ‘Dryad’ was installed in 1984 beside a rectangular pool and against the yew trees of the topiary garden adjacent to the C16 manor house of Heslington Hall (Grade II*-listed). It is located within Heslington Conservation Area. A dryad is a tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology. The sculpture, in cast and welded aluminium, comprises a ring-like head and flowing body; a culmination of forms developed by Wright throughout his career. Wright had begun to produce large-scale works in aluminium in the 1960s and achieved considerable skill in using the material, mastering the technique of argon arc welding where two pieces can be joined together at an absolute minimal point when reaching temperatures in excess of 6,000 degrees centigrade. The method allowed him to achieve a combination of height and delicacy of form in many of his sculptures. Dryad represents both an eloquent climax and a summation of Wright’s career, holding an important place within the artist’s oeuvre. It is a dynamic sculpture of high aesthetic quality and workmanship. The sculpture serves as a modern intervention within the oldest part of the historic landscape associated with the university, helping to bridge it with the 1960s college buildings.

The sculpture ‘Dryad’ of 1984, designed by the artist Austin Wright for the University of York, is
recommended for listing at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Artistic interest:
* as a sculpture by Austin Wright who was among the most talented later C20 sculptors, exerting a
considerable influence on modern art in the North of England;
* as a relatively rare surviving large-scale outdoor commission by Wright, many of whose works have been stolen or destroyed;
* as a dynamic sculpture of high aesthetic quality and workmanship;
* for its place within Wright’s oeuvre, representing an eloquent climax and a summation of his career;
* for its elegant setting next to the pool and topiary garden of Heslington Hall, which enhances the
presence of the sculpture as tree nymph or spirit;

Historic interest:
* as a piece commissioned for the University of York, one of a wave of new universities that improved
access to higher education and marked the highpoint of publicly-funded architecture in post-war Britain;
* as a tangible reminder of Wright’s close association with the university, whose work inspired the
Professor of Music, John Paynter, to produce a piece for chamber orchestra and viola; ‘Three Sculptures of Austin Wright’;

Group value:
* with the Grade II*-listed Heslington Hall, the ‘Untitled’ sculpture by the same artist, and the university
buildings including the Central Hall, Derwent College and former Langwith College, covered walkways, as well as the designed landscape.


Historic England, 2018, Historic England Advice Reports (Unpublished document). SYO2110.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Unpublished document: Historic England. 2018. Historic England Advice Reports.

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Record last edited

Mar 20 2020 10:21AM

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