John Kavanagh RBS 1903 -1985. Workers Lifting Steel. Conceived in 1930. Bronze.



John F. KAVANAGH 1903 - 1985.

Raising Steel

Bronze 60 x 85 cm

Cast posthumously as an edition of five


Provenance:  The Leicester Galleries, Mayfair, London


Sculpture executed in 1930 in wood and plaster and was the winning entry for the prestigious Rome Scholarship exhibition in 1930. 

The artist

Portrait sculptor. Born 24 September 1903 at Birr, King's County, Ireland. Studied at Liverpool School of Art 1920–1 and won a Scholarship to the Royal College of Art. in 1925. Studied there 1925–30 under Henry Moore. Won Rome Scholarship in Sculpture 1930 and lived in the British School in Rome 1930–3. Taught at Leeds College of Art 1934–9. Member of the R.B.S. 1935. Made the corner figures and reliefs for Walthamstow Town Hall. Appointed Senior Lecturer at Elam Fine Art School, University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1951.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, 



Five were posthumously cast in bronze by The Leicester Galleries under the auspices of the Kavanagh estate. It is the only one in existence for sale.


The original plaster relief was Kavanagh’s winning submission piece for the Rome Scholarship for Sculpture at the British School in Rome (1930). 

The British School of Rome was an important patron of young British artists, and in 1930, John Francis Kavanagh was awarded the acclaimed Rome Prize for Sculpture; the same prize that his more famous tutor Gilbert Ledward had been awarded in 1913. This enabled him to study for three years in Italy. Workers Lifting a Steel Construction was, as good as anything of the kind by a student that Ledward had ever seen. (1) 

After his return from Italy in 1934, Kavanagh was appointed Head of Department of Sculpture and Modelling at the Leeds College of Art. During this six-year period he developed his talent for architectural sculpture. He maintained a studio in Chelsea and exhibited at both the Royal Academy and in Paris. His commissions were both private and public, the most important being the sculpture for the new Walthamstow Town Hall. This included 16 panels of relief, symbolising themes of work. 

In all his sculpture, Kavanagh always remained true to his materials. In stone-carving, the shape of the original block is implicit in the finished design; in modelling clay or plaster, the plasticity of the material is emphasised rather than disguised, and in medal design every element of design and lettering is perfectly balanced, often incorporating elements of antiquity. In his relief panels, the modelling becomes architectural or machine-like whilst still incorporating abrupt angles and changes of plane that are so characteristic of his more naturalistic works. 

1. Kavanagh Family Papers


92.00 cm
66.00 cm
4.00 cm