Paolozzi, artist who has adorned London, near death after collapse

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's most foremost artists, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, is in a coma from which he is not expected to recover, after collapsing in his Chelsea studio at the end of August.

One of Britain's most foremost artists, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, is in a coma from which he is not expected to recover, after collapsing in his Chelsea studio at the end of August.

Initially, doctors thought the condition was not life-threatening, but Sir Eduardo, 76, has now been diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegetative state".

Last night, his family were facing the agonising choice of whether to keep him alive on a life-support machine or to allow him to die.

The Edinburgh-born sculptor, the son of Italian immigrants, was credited with inspiring the Pop Art movement in the 1950s, and is a Royal Academician and Her Majesty's Sculptor-in-Ordinary for Scotland. He was knighted in 1989.

Many of Paolozzi's celebrated works can be seen all over London. Most recently, he created a huge locomotive sculpture called London to Paris.

The work, which weighs five tons and is 25 feet long, is mounted on a track of wooden rails. A broken human body, including fragmented head, hands and feet are shown alongside twisted metal on top of a wagon platform. The artist attracted controversy earlier this year when he suggested that it should be placed outside Paddington station as a tribute to the 31 people who died in the crash there last October.

In the capital alone, other sculptures by the artist can be found at the British Library, outside the Design Museum, in front of Euston station, inside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, at High Holborn and in countless restaurants, ranging from the Neal Street Restaurant to The Ivy. He also created the huge figure dedicated to Josephine Baker in Selfridge's cosmetics hall, as well as the colourful mosaics in Tottenham Court Road Underground station, which have remained a talking point for more than 20 years.

Although Paolozzi has spent most of his time in London and Europe, he has always striven to keep in touch with Scotland. In 1994 he offered the National Galleries of Scotland a body of his work. The Paolozzi Gift, finalised in 1998, comprises plaster maquettes, moulds, prints, drawings, the artist's library, much of his archive, and the contents of his studio.

Last year, the National Galleries of Scotland opened the Dean gallery in Edinburgh, forming a home for the bequest of several of Paolozzi's pieces.

The artist, who is divorced from Freda Elliott, remained busy right up to his collapse, with his commissions over the past 12 months including bronze doors for St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, stained-glass windows for the city's St Mary's Church, and designs for the English Touring Opera' production of The Magic Flute, as well as a sculpture for the Royal Academy.

Family and friends, including his three daughters, Louise, Anna and Emma, had voiced concern over his punishing schedule, which they believed was responsible for his heart problems. This summer he cancelled a number of interviews citing tiredness, and earlier admitted in a newspaper article that he was "only just keeping his head above water" with many artistic commissions to complete.

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