The fascinating life and work of Naomi Blake

Bronze resin sculpture.

View, Fitzroy Square, 1977, Bronze resin 240 x 160 x 35. Erected to mark the silver Jubilee of the Queen.

By News Reporters Naomi Blake the artist who created the sculpture which sits in Fitzroy Square gardens recently celebrated her 90th birthday. This month The Curwen & New Academy Gallery are holding a special exhibition to celebrate her work which will include highlights from throughout her career. 

Alongside the exhibition a book — Naomi Blake: Dedication in Sculpture — which catalogues the development of her work will be launched, and her daughter Anita Peleg will give a talk paying tribute to her mother’s life as a sculptor, Holocaust survivor, and advocate of understanding between faiths.

Naomi Blake (née Dum) was born on 11th March 1924 in Mukaĉevo, Czechoslovakia. The youngest of ten children, she was originally named Zisel (meaning sweet) by her parents. She changed her name to Naomi in 1948.

In 1942, Naomi’s family included 32 members: four grandparents, her parents, nine siblings, six spouses and ten young nieces and nephews. By 1945 only eight members remained; the rest had been murdered during the Holocaust.

In 1952 Naomi left Israel to seek medical help and rejoin members of her family. She met and married a young German refugee, Asher, and settled in London. The early days were not easy as she knew no-one, spoke poor English and had no qualifications.

Following training at the Hornsey School of Art, Naomi’s work began with ceramic pots and portrait sculpture, progressing to figurative and then abstract work. Sculpting originally in clay and then in polystyrene for casting in bronze, she gradually reintroduced figurative elements in her work, showing the influences of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Her work developed through a cycle of embryonic forms, enclosed and protected figures, gradually opening out “to free the figure from its haven to stand against all adversity and spread its free wings”. With her great interest in Jewish life and learning, she also sculpted imposing, expressive Biblical figures, bringing to life the strength and character of the Old Testament. (Edited extract from naomiblake.co.uk)

Naomi Blake: A retrospective 2-26 April 2014. Gallery talk by Anita Peleg, 6.30pm 24 April 2014. Curwen & New Academy Gallery, 34 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2JR.

Naomi Blake: Dedication in Sculpture, by Anita Peleg, published by Curwen Gallery & New Academy Art Gallery, London 2014.

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