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John Bunting: Sculptural Influences and the Memorial Chapel, Oldstead

25 July – 3 October 2016

This display looks at the themes of faith, suffering and love in Bunting's work.

John Bunting (1927-2002) was an artist, writer and influential teacher. His sculpture was representational and devotional in nature, investigating themes of faith, suffering and love.

Bunting carved works in stone and wood, occasionally casting them in bronze. He won several large commissions for churches, hospitals and schools in northern England throughout his career, such as St Thomas à Becket School in Wakefield and St Wilfrid's Catholic High School in Featherstone, and taught artists such as Antony Gormley (b. 1950) and Martin Jennings (b. 1957).


Born in north London, Bunting was enrolled as a pupil at Ampleforth College in 1941, a Catholic boarding school in rural North Yorkshire. He went on to study at Central St Martin's School of Art (1949-1950) where he came under the influence of Leon Underwood (1890-1975), with whom he maintained a close friendship after he completed his studies. Later, while studying at the Royal College of Art (1951-1954), he met Frank Dobson (1886-1963) and John Skeaping (1901-1980).

In 1955 Bunting won a British Council travelling scholarship and made a pilgrimage to Beni-Abbes in the desert of Algeria to see a private chapel built by the French hermit Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916). He returned to Ampleforth the same year to teach art and during this time spent three years converting a remote hilltop barn above the village of Oldstead into a chapel as a memorial for three Ampleforth pupils killed in the Second World War. During the construction of this building he was influenced by Eric Gill's (1882-1940) chapel at Piggotts Farm in the Chilterns, as well as the private chapels of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Le Corbusier (1887-1965) in France.

This display draws on the collections of the Henry Moore Institute Archive and Research Library and the sculpture collection of Leeds Museums and Galleries. It has been developed by Rory Menage, MA student at Leeds College Art, as part of his 2016 internship at the Henry Moore Institute.