Then let us introduce you to one of the world’s greatest
sculptors, who lived for most of her life at The Bield, a delightful
traditional Lakeland farmhouse just a few yards up the valley from the
Three Shires Inn.
Josephina de Vasconcellos was born in 1904 to a Brazilian diplomat
father and an English mother. A member of the Quaker movement, her
mother was doubtless responsible for ensuring the young Josephina was
encouraged to pursue and develop her artistic and creative abilities.
At the tender age of 17 she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of
Art, and two years later gained a place at the Academie de la Grande
Chaumiere in Paris where she studied under one of Rodin’s assistants.
She married German born artist Delmar Banner in 1930 and they made
their lifelong home in Little Langdale, with her studio in a converted
barn adjacent to the house.
Whilst the war years didn’t do much for the prosperity of artists or
sculptors, the aftermath was a different story, as Josephina was
commissioned to create quite a number of war memorials including the
Prince of Peace in Aldershot, The Hand at St. Bees School, and The Last
Chimera which sits in the Canongate Church in Edinburgh.
Shortly afterwards she created a piece called Mary and Child, which
sits in no less a prestigious location than the crypt in St Pauls
Cathedral in London. Also in London, beginning in the late 1950’s, she
regularly created the annual Christmas nativity scene for display in
Arguably her best known work, however, is the beautiful statue of two
figures, kneeling and embracing, which she created in 1977 and named
Reunion. The work was restored in 1994 and renamed Reconciliation, and
to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second World War bronze casts of the
original were made for display in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and
the Hiroshima Peace Park.
A third cast was created to sit at Stormont Castle in Belfast, and in
1999 a fourth followed to become part of the Berlin Wall memorial.
Aside of her artistic work, de Vasconcellos contributed a great deal
to establishing two residential centres which allowed both disabled and
disadvantaged youngsters to benefit from holidays in the great outdoors;
and these efforts contributed to her being awarded an OBE in 1985.
Her failing health forced her to leave Little Langdale in the late
1980’s, although she continued to work for many more years until she
died in 2005, and the lasting legacy of her life’s work remains for all
to see in many corners of the world, as well as the gardens of quite a
few of her neighbours in the Little Langdale valley.
(photo courtesy of Joseph Haran of trekearth.com)