Artist on File: Anthea Denton, Artist & Sculptor
A beautiful spring day finds me driving down winding country lanes, passing fields that stretch out into the distance, to keep a rendezvous with the talented artist Anthea Denton. Her dreamy thatched ‘May Cottage’ and studio are in a rural idyll near the village of Sandridge.
Anthea is one of those people I seriously admire; she is supremely well organised and an accomplished technician. These traits alongside her acute artistic eye make viewing her work very gratifying.
Anthea was born in Penrith, Cumbria but her Family moved to Bradford, Yorkshire, when she was 6. She lived and worked in the area before moving to London in 1971. Anthea was a trained Secretary and in 1978 she began working for an oil company in London Victoria.
We talked in Anthea’s lounge surrounded by her splendid work. I love horses and used to ride, so my attention was immediately drawn to the marvellous sculpture of a horse’s head. ‘I rode and owned horses for over 20 years so had plenty of time to study their anatomy’. Her affection for all things equine was such that she bought and restored rocking horses for 2 years ‘It was a delight to restore them to their original glory.’
Anthea takes pride in the anatomical accuracy and the precision of measurements of her subjects; animals or human alike. Although Anthea has had a lifelong interest in art she started sculpting about 15 years ago. She was at a dinner party and the host asked if she would create a sculpture of his cat and her reply was: ‘I’ll have a go’.
She says: ‘With animals it is too dangerous to use calipers, so I take most measurements by hand. Not as accurate, of course, but it works.
One of my commissions was “Kizzy”, a cat who loved mushrooms. My client wanted the pose to be of her sitting up eating a mushroom. The hardest part was to have the model looking comfortable and not as if she was about to fall over. You’d get very tired of looking at something that was off balance.’
These sculptures of the same Greyhound are cast in plaster. I wondered on average how long a piece of work took to produce: ‘It is approximately 3 months from start to finish, which allows about 6 weeks for me and 6 weeks for my foundry in Limehouse to cast the sculpture in bronze.’
Whilst living in London, Anthea enrolled at Camden Arts College, where she did a series of geometric paintings. “I have a tidy mind so geometric painting suited me’.
Anthea later enrolled in a sculpture course at Oaklands College in Harpenden for 2 years with tutor Mo Gardener.
‘My intention was to sculpt horses, as I had spent many years with them, but Mo told me that I really ought to do a person’s head. Not wishing to fall out with my tutor in the first week, I modelled a bust of my husband. I think it was about 8 years before I modelled a horse. Cats, dogs and people, yes, but not a horse! I once read in a book that: sculptors who can sculpt people can do animals, but sculptors who do animals often cannot do people.’ Anthea can do both with considerable élan. I thought this bust of her husband, set in the pretty gardens of their house was fantastic.
Anthea also attended the Hampstead School of Art for 2 years. ‘The tutorials were for 3 hours a week and for one whole term we had the same model. This allowed me to concentrate on the body in class and then work on the facial features at home. Working with the same individual for a lengthy period is very helpful in understanding the human form’.
‘I also took a 2 year course at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, when they were on the Old BAe site. I learnt so much from watching other people work in class.; also the campus library was near the classroom, which made it easy just to wander over there to look at their reference books. The library in the new campus is a much further away from the classroom.’
I thought this sculpture of a crossed legged man, from a life model in one of her classes, was absolutely wonderfuland I also admired this art deco statuette called ‘Girl with a Bowl’.
The study of faces is a particularly fascinating subject and these examples of Anthea’s head sculptures are tremendous.
Amongst the many commissions Anthea has received was a doorway surround for the Fanshawe pool and gym in Ware in 1998. It is a mezzo relief in Bronze Resin featuring seahorses and dolphins.
She has added another string to her artistic bow by taking up hand painting silk scarves and belongs to the Guild of Silk Painters Sericum group, along with the HVA Sculptors group, although she says she is a very poor attender of both, as she also has other interests.
Anthea regularly takes part in our Open Studios event and will be exhibiting her work this year.
If you would like to visit Anthea’s studio or commission her work, please contact her on:
Telephone: 01582 832173
by CLARE KENDAL BATE