Writers in Bronze

Writers in Bronze — The Anthony Stones Portrait Busts of New Zealand Writers

22 March 2022 to 25 June 2022 | Turnbull Gallery, Level 1
Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm | Saturday, 9am to 1pm

‘Writers in Bronze’ is a celebration of Anthony Stones’ artistry and career as New Zealand’s foremost portrait sculptor, and reflects the close interpersonal connections of a generation of New Zealand’s most eminent writers.

A showcase of cast bronze portraits

Writers in Bronze showcases the sequence of cast bronze portrait heads of New Zealand writers by sculptor Anthony Stones (1934-2016) in the Alexander Turnbull Library collection.

A portrait sculptor should be like a guerrilla fighter, prepared to adapt and operate anywhere...
— Anthony Stones, 1984

Completed between 1975 and 2006, the sequence includes heads of such literary luminaries as Sir Keith Sinclair, Janet Frame, and Michael King.

Also featured in the exhibition are a sketchbook compiled by Anthony Stones in Beijing in 1984, where he went to model Rewi Alley from life, and photographs by Reg Graham of Stones modelling Janet Frame at her home in Dunedin in 1998.

Anthony Stones biography

Cyril Anthony Stones was born in Glossop, England, in 1934. His first training in sculpture was a brief attendance at Manchester Regional College of Art. Although reluctant to leave the school when he emigrated to New Zealand with his parents in 1952, he was able to continue his training in sculpture under John Kavanagh at Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts. A series of labouring jobs followed, which Stones enjoyed, and which would later inform his sculptures of working people.

After further training as a teacher, in 1963 Stones began working in television, initially in set design. He rose to become head of design at TVNZ from 1978 to 1983. Outside his busy television career he pursued an equally energetic vocation as a literary editor, illustrator and sculptor, often taking as his subjects the artists and writers whose work and company he relished.

Man and woman looking at the model of the woman's head.
Anthony Stones and Janet Frame inspect portrait bust of Janet Frame, 1998, by Reginald Graham 1930-2007. Ref: PAColl-5931-07. Alexander Turnbull Library. Reproduced courtesy of the Reginald Graham Estate and the Janet Frame Trust.

Between 1970 and 2006 Anthony Stones executed a series of portrait busts of New Zealand artists and writers, modelled in clay from life and subsequently cast in bronze. Several of the busts were purchased from the artist by the Alexander Turnbull Library, while the busts of Janet Frame, Sir Keith Sinclair and Michael King were commissioned and presented by the Friends of the Turnbull Library. The Turnbull bust collection reflects the close interpersonal connections of a generation of New Zealand’s writers.

Major public sculptures made by Stones include those of Peter Fraser outside the Old Government Buildings in Wellington, Jean Batten at Auckland International Airport, and Lord Freyberg in Auckland’s Freyberg Square.

Anthony Stones left New Zealand in 1983 to live permanently in England, where he became one of the UK’s leading portrait sculptors. After 2000 he lived increasingly in China with his wife Lily Feng Stones and completed a major series of sculptures, The Running Man (2008), for the Beijing Olympic Games. He also founded the Stones International Sculpture Academy at Shenyang University.
Following his death in Beijing in 2016, China’s National Art Museum held a large
retrospective exhibition of his works.

Bronze sculpture of a woman's head.
Bronze head of Janet Frame, by Anthony Stones. Ref: Curios-030-049. Alexander Turnbull Library.

This Turnbull Gallery exhibition, made possible by support from the Turnbull Endowment Trust, is a celebration of Anthony Stones’ artistry and career as New Zealand’s foremost portrait sculptor, and reflects the close interpersonal connections of a generation of New Zealand’s most eminent writers.