Cornelia Chen: A Sequel to The “Unfinished Symphony” of Charles Sargeant Jagger

Having served in the British infantry during the First World War, Charles Sargeant Jagger was able to create realistic war memorials that made us reflect on his identity as a historian. Instead of putting a seal on the past, he channelled his first-hand experience of the ruthless side of the war – often considered a controversial topic in its aftermath – into art pieces that would be experienced by the authorities and the public. Artist Martin Jennings, on BBC’s Great Lives, described Charles Sargeant Jagger as being “arguably the first British sculptor to capture the horror of war”, but somehow his memorials seem to have eluded the attention of the general public for many years, becoming “hidden treasures” waiting to be re-discovered.

While exploring the role of photography in mediating history and memory in the Conway Library, thinking about the sensory process needed to form memories inspired me to add the dimension of sound to selected images from the Charles Sargeant Jagger collection. The audio is generated and edited using Pixelsynth – a browser-based synthesizer that reads pixelized information from each photograph. In my experimentation, I took photographic information and translated it into a digital language for each image, and finally for the image they create when viewed collectively. [1] The title is inspired by Pathé’s short film An Unfinished Symphony in Stone, (1935) which is available in the British Pathé archive.

Consistently, in Jagger’s monuments that are currently publicly displayed, the strong, almost paradoxical relationship established between the monument and their surroundings becomes a very intriguing feature. The realistic way in which he presents his subject matter, made me think of urban monuments with similar qualities in China, for instance, the group sculptures placed outside of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. These powerful and disturbing war memorial sculptures are located within the historical site of the tragedy to commemorate the victims of the tragedy and emphasize the sentiment of the memorial to visitors who have chosen the site for a visit. In contrast, some of Jaggers well-known works are on display in spaces that aren’t specifically linked to tragic war events, and that are still in regular use by residents and visitors for transport and relaxation. Examples include the Great Western Railway War Memorial in Paddington Station, and the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in London. The positioning of the memorials in locations of public transit and leisure, allows individual experiences of the monuments to intersect freely, without necessarily purposeful or structural influences of interpretation.

C S Jagger’s Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number. 

 

Detail of C S Jagger’s Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number. 

 

Detail of C S Jagger’s Artillery Memorial, Park Corner. Photograph by Anthony Kersting. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number. 

Instead of posing in a celebratory moment, Jagger’s figures are usually found standing in a guarded position to symbolize the solemn role of soldiers, and the terrible losses of war. A culminating example of Jagger’s unfiltered representation of reality lies in the debatable choice of having a soldier’s corpse lying at the rear side of the cross on the Royal Artillery Memorial, [3] which pulls you in with the gripping realism of 20th-century warfare. 

C S Jagger’s Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number. 


Some photographs in The Courtauld’s Conway Library capture Jagger’s presence alongside his memorials; these images document his studio work and possibly present an opportunity to investigate his condensed mode of production from 1919 to 1925, which moved to the pace of one sculpture every three months. The picture below shows Jagger’s enlarged casted shadow on the background, the maquette model, and the full size Ernest H. Shackleton Monument in the making. 

CS Jagger working on the statue of Shackleton. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number.

 


Although depicting from a chaotic historical period, The Sentry figure seems unexpectedly “calm” in his expression and execution; this is highlighted by the smooth and rounded edges decorated by drapery, and the intricate details when Jagger sculpted the realistic textures of the cloth material. 

C S Jagger, The Sentry. Maquette for the War Memorial at the Britannia Hotel, Manchester. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number. 


While Jagger’s statues were documented in long shots, the reliefs are recorded with close-up images focusing on the details. The  fibreglass resin casting produces a wrinkled texture in the final artwork, conveying the impression of a freshly unfolded scroll. Here, we see meaningful details like the domestic cookware relief situated towards the base on the Royal Artillery Memorial, which represents the very human condition of soldiers at war, in the contrast between the large and conceptual nature of war and the basic and practical human needs like finding food. The striped towel’s texture is beautifully enhanced by the cascading pattern on the rock’s surface. The fact that the basic coexists with the heroic on the artillery memorial balances the artist’s attention to the general lacking conditions during warfare and his intention to relate with and obtain the acknowledgement of the public.

C S Jagger, The First Battle of Ypres. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number.

 

Detail of C S Jagger’s Artillery Memorial. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number.

 

Detail of C S Jagger’s The First Battle of Ypres. Held in the Conway Library, currently without accession number.

Other works with sounds:

C S Jagger, the Hoylake and West Kirby War Memorial.

 

 

 

C S Jagger, Anglo-Belgium Memorial to British Expeditionary Force.

 




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Chen Chen
Courtauld Connects Digitisation Oxford Micro-Internship Participant


References:
[1] M. Jenning, Interviewee, Martin Jennings on Charles Sargeant Jagger. [Interview]. 5 January 2016.
[2] B. Pathé, “An Unfinished Symphony In Stone (1935),” 13 April 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTo9ClKa-Sk.
[3] “Royal Artillery Memorial,” [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Artillery_Memorial.