The Neighbours is a sculpture on the Highbury Quadrant Estate in North London. It shows two men sitting down on a bench. Commissioned in 1957 it was installed in 1959. It is meant to demonstrate the idealism of the ‘working man‘.
Created by Siegfried Charoux it was acquired by the London County Council as part of their Patronage of the Arts Scheme. One of a number of public sculptures to have been acquired in such a way. The scheme sought to incorporate art into daily life as the city of London underwent rebuilding after the devastation of the second world war.
Grade II Listed Statue
It’s importance was recognised in 1998 when the Neighbours was grade II listed. This followed a thematic study by English Heritage on post-war sculpture. Since then the artwork has also received restoration. Over time the surface of the work had deteriorated. This was mainly due to exposure from the elements and a general lack of maintenance since it’s installation.
The Quadrant Estate in Highbury on which the Neighbours were placed was completed in 1954. It had been designed as a model estate to replace bomb damaged areas of Highbury. At the time the estate was ground breaking. Containing 611 homes the demand for them was huge. A mixture of terrace and low rise flats with a lot of consideration for the amount of green space. For many people living there it would have been the first time they would have also have had access to electricity and hot water.
Seigfried Charoux (1896-1967) was an Austrian sculptor. Moving to England in 1935 he became naturalised in 1946. He was known for his primarily figurative work in bronze, stone and terracotta. A number of his other works can still be seen around London. His epic piece ‘The Islanders’ was shown as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain though sadly destroyed soon afterwards.
The Neighbours on Highbury’s Quadrant Estate continued a commitment by Charoux to represent social cohesion and companionship. According to the Henry Moore foundation “this simple sculpture of two seated figures pursued a recognisably humanistic theme, yet offered a shrewd understanding of the customs and culture of Charoux’s adopted British homeland”.
Highbury’s Quadrant Estate
Locating the sculpture at Highbury’s then brand new Quadrant Estate was an important element of the estates aethestic. The London County Council over a period from 1948 to 1965 would promote and commission works by visual artists. This was part of a wider Arts Patronage Scheme which evolved into placed visual art in new estates.
Placed within an open green space on Highbury Quadrant this too reflects the importance of open space in the initial estate design. Look around and there are plenty of green areas with maturing trees. The working men depicted in Siegfried Charoux’s sculpture are prominent within the space. Looking out following a hard day.
Seigfried Charoux’s Neighbours Sculpture was visited on 25 October 2020 and all photos were taken on that day. This is part of a series of posts on post war sculpture.
The Neighbours on Highbury’s Quadrant Estate Gallery
For more Inspiring City articles relating to the Arts Patronage Scheme, take a look at: