A new sculpture of Wallace is to be made for the town of Hertford where Wallace went to school. Sculptor Rodney Munday has been awarded the commission to produce the piece and he has sent me the following article which explains the project:
'To commemorate the centenary of Alfred Russel Wallace, Hertford Civic Society in conjunction with East Herts Council and Hertford Town Council have commissioned sculptor Rodney Munday to produce a large wall relief of the naturalist, who was for a time educated at Hertford Grammar School. The maquette for the 2m high work which will be placed on an external wall of Hertford Theatre was exhibited at a Wallace celebration event at the theatre on 14th November. The final work will be installed next spring.
Commenting on his work, Rodney said: “Creating a visual image of a character from the past should be akin to writing a biographical novel. Research into the subject’s personality is essential in order to produce something of enduring value. In this context, Wallace’s two volume autobiography was fascinating reading in coming to know him as a person. It reveals the man as a polymath of truly Renaissance proportions. Not only was he (together with Darwin) the co-author of evolutionary theory, but he was at the forefront of the geology of his time, and an eminent social theorist - as well as an adventurer. The autobiography together with Wallace’s two volume Malay Archipelago, gave me an idea for a sculpture which hopefully goes beyond mere portraiture and which, I believe is more interesting and attractive as an artistic design. It presents the torso of Wallace reaching out for a greater bird of paradise. The bird itself is based on the image which forms the frontispiece of Malay Archipelago, and its form is reflected in the image of Wallace, giving those sort of visual references which set up internal rhythms analogous to rhyme and rhythm in poetry, at the same time, by its imagery, saying something about the man and his work. Evolutionary theory had been in the air for some time before Darwin and Wallace, and it is more than coincidence that they had the same revolutionary idea at the same time. Philosophical and scientific ideas are frequently “in the air” at certain periods, ready to be snatched from it by those extraordinarily perceptive people we sometimes refer to as geniuses. Wallace reaching out and grasping the bird of paradise which so enthralled him, can therefore be seen as symbolic of his greater achievement.”'
The maquette for the sculpture. Copyright Rodney Munday.