A planned monument to Virginia Woolf overlooking the Thames is under fire for its controversial location when the famous author committed suicide by drowning. Woolf’s life-size resemblance designed by Laury Dizengremel would be placed on a park bench in south-west London, where she lived with her husband, author Leonard Woolf, for a decade from 1914. The Richmond Council’s Environment, Sustainability, Culture, and Sports Committee approved the proposal last Thursday, but a local conservation group expressed concern that the location was problematic given Woolf’s biography.
The prolific English writer struggled with depression throughout her life and after several previous suicide attempts, she filled her pockets with stones and entered the River Ouse near Lewes in East Sussex in 1941, at the age of 59. Currently, there is only one memorial for Woolf in Richmond, a blue plaque from English heritage at Hogarth House, where she and Leonard established their publishing house, Hogarth Press. The bronze statue of Woolf depicts her reclining on the bench, an arm outstretched and a book closed on her lap. It faced setbacks almost immediately from community activists proposing more alternative locations to the riverbank, according to a report in Guardian.
Barry May, president of the Richmond Society, told Guardian that “considering the way her illness and ultimately the way she died … it struck us as a bit insensitive to have this statue and figure of Virginia Woolf sitting on a bench and staring out over the water.”
Charlotte Banks, of the Aurora Metro publishing house, led the fundraising campaign to realize a monument to Woolf in Richmond. At a meeting with the Richmond City Council, Banks said that efforts to change the location of the statue, which has been chosen for many practical reasons, appear to be an attempt to pressure people such as [Woolf] out of sight. The purpose of the statue is to celebrate different lives and encourage conversations about mental health, feminism, sexuality and gender. It is not possible if the statue is hidden away on a residential street. ”
The Aurora Metro campaign received thousands of pounds in donations last November after the unveiling of a monument to Mary Wollstonecraft, a very paralyzed depiction of a slender, naked woman rising from silvery undulating waves. The Mary on the Green campaign, which raised funds for the statue, said in a statement: “Our position has always been that the artwork should capture the spirit of Wollstonecraft: she was a pioneer who defied the convention and she deserves a memorial that is as radical as she was. ”
The statue amazed viewers around the world and renewed the study of the sexual nature of historical monuments for women. Last September, a lightly dressed statue of a female field worker unveiled in Italy was called an “insult to women and the history it should celebrate,” by a local female politician. The work, a woman in a see-through, body-hugging dress, honors a failed socialist uprising in which 300 soldiers were massacred.