Obituary: Sean Rice

Sean Rice was a highly accomplished Liverpool sculptor whose imaginative interpretation of traditional religious or mythic themes was highlighted by the recent installation at Liverpool's Roman Catholic Cathedral of Rice's 14 sculptures for the Stations of the Cross. Commissioned by Bishop Derek Worlock, this last work has a similar poignancy to Elisabeth Frink's figure of Christ, installed shortly before her death above the entrance to the Anglican Cathedral at the opposite end of Hope Street.

Unlike Arthur Dooley, another renowned Merseyside sculptor who produced sculpture for churches, Rice was a highly trained artisan from an academic background. That background gave him an astonishing technical virtuosity; the individuality of his style is based on a superb mastery of casting, welding and forging techniques. He often used multivarious metals in the same piece, fabricating them in a way that produced extraordinary figurative detail, replacing the hard and seemingly intractable nature of metal with a feeling of effortless malleability of materials.

Rice was born in London in 1931. He spent the war years in Brighton, where he later began art studies under the sculptor James Woodford RA. Like so many sculptors, Rice started off as a painter but Woodford - creator of the Robin Hood monument in Nottingham - encouraged his growing interest in mythic themes and symbolic forms.

This direction was further encouraged by the sculptor Maurice Lambert, who taught Rice between 1951 and 1953 at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Lambert's penchant for animals, birds and mythic figures undoubtedly influenced Rice's choice of similar subject matter. Their techniques may have differed but Lambert's celebrated Pegasus - which Rice encountered at the 1951 Festival of Britain - encouraged the baroque fantasy and overflowing symbolic detail that would also come to characterise Rice's mature work. His 17ft fountain (1972) for the Atlantic Tower Hotel near Liverpool's Albert Dock, for example - a totemic aviary of ascending birds - closely recalls Lambert's Aengus and the Birds. Rice's interest in the relationship of the animal and human worlds is witnessed in another large commission, Noah and the Four Winds, installed at Chester Zoo in 1977.

Another major influence on Rice's development was Italy, which he discovered on a motorcycle soon after graduating from the Academy Schools. In awe of classical architecture and Italian mannerist sculpture, he subsequently visited Italy annually, enjoying the landscape as much as the churches, and producing sensitive watercolours. He also met leading Italian artists like the realist painter Renato Guttuso and the Vatican sculptor Manzu, both of whom - along with Picasso - tempered the visionary quality of Rice's work by introducing a more earthy note.

This other side of Rice's sensibility caused him to render harrowing or menacing images of motorcycle riders - the elaborate welded structures of scraps and metal offcuts clearly identifying with the engineering of the real thing - or of paramilitary riot police, complete with helmets, shields and batons. An interest in the theme of civil disturbance introduced a secular as well as local note, since the 1981 Toxteth riots had occurred near Rice's home in the north Liverpool suburb of Walton.

It was in the unlikely context of his terraced house in the shadow of Goodison Park football ground that Rice installed a bronze foundry and metal workshop, enabling him to undertake large-scale commissions. After a distinguished teaching career in the sculpture department of Liverpool College of Art, Rice decided in 1980 to devote all his energies to making sculpture, a brave move made possible by the commercial success he achieved through regular exhibitions at the Alwin Gallery, London.

Rice's sculptures of Old Testament or mythic figures were larger than life in more ways than one. He had a keen, even humorous, poetic sense as well as an unrivalled feeling for the expressive potential of metals. One associates welded sculpture with the abstract structures and "sculpitecture" of Anthony Caro - a student with Rice at the Royal Academy - but in Sean Rice's capable hands such a medium was put to more symbolic ends.

Brian Sean Rice, sculptor: born Heston, Middlesex 5 November 1931; Senior Lecturer, Liverpool College of Art 1967-80; married (two sons, one daughter); died Liverpool 4 January 1997.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone