This collection of archive material contains photographs, negatives, correspondence, postcards, sculpture contracts, drawings, portfolios, source material, architectural plans, and newspaper cuttings relating to Franta Belsky's work in sculpture throughout his career, including a great deal of visual and written material on his major commissions of Sir Winston Churchill, Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham and The Earl Mountbatten of Burma. The files relating to Churchill include transcripts for "Making a statue: The sculpture of Sir Winston Churchill for the Churchill Memorial and Library at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri in the United States", by George Whittet and Franta Belsky [2001.94/D/1/11]. His portrait work is documented in many photographs and also relate to his portraits of four generations of the Royal family, notable figures in the arts, individuals in business and children.Belsky's early work is represented by memorials, for example to the Czechoslovakian army who were present in Britain, Cholmondeley, Cheshire, 1940, and a memorial to Czech paratroopers in Prague, 1947, his carvings from 1943 onwards and also his Royal College of Art Diploma show in 1950. Photographs document Belsky's first public commission for the Dome of Discovery in the "Festival of Britain" in 1951 [2001.94/C/4]. His public sculptures and fountains, such as 'Lesson', 1955-56 and 'Shell Fountain', 1961-1962, are documented with preparatory drawings, photographs of Belsky's involvement in construction and publicity photographs. There are many photographs of Belsky working in his studios in London and Oxfordshire. The process of sculpture making is well documented in the photographs, which show works in progress during production in the studio and foundry, and their installation and exhibition. For example the unusual construction of 'Triga', 1958, from building materials is well documented in photographs of Belsky at work in Knightsbridge, London [2001.94/F/3].His drawings include preparatory sketches for sculpture ideas, and many drawings of plants. Belsky's collection of source material is in the form of photographs and published images relating to fountains and public sculpture, and many photographs for use as life studies.Correspondence relating to Belsky's work includes papers relating to the setting up of Franta Belsky Limited in order to financially manage work abroad, contracts for sculpture commissions, 1964-1990 [2001.94/I/2], and letters between Belsky and foundries such as the Meridian Bronze Company, 1978-1988.Written material by Belsky includes a draft transcript and photographs for an unpublished monograph, which includes biographical details and commentaries on many of his sculptures [2001.94/J/3].Belsky's involvement in arts societies is represented in correspondence, minutes, reports and exhibition catalogues from the Royal Society of British Sculptors, 1951-1994, as Belsky was a long-standing founder member. There are further papers relating to the Oxford Art Society due to exhibitions Belsky was involved in organising.His personal papers include a photograph of Belsky as a boy in 1929, cartoons by his wife Margaret Belsky and letters between them during Belsky's trip to America in 1971. There are also papers related to Belsky's residential properties in London and Oxfordshire, and a property in Tuscany, Italy.
The collection arrangement of this archive reflects some of the basics of Franta Belsky's own filing system, for example, he created files for portraits in terms of male, female and children and created a series of files relating to the Churchill and Mountbatten commissions and many of the fountain sculptures. However, there were also many miscellaneous photographs which have been placed within the most appropriate sections. All sections of the collection, and files within sections, are arranged in chronological order. Sections have been created for groups of files where no original order was evident, and these contain memorials, public sculpture and commemorative statues other than Mountbatten and Churchill. The section relating to carvings, Belsky's Diploma show and work in the "Festival of Britain" has been created to group a series of files together which seem to demonstrate much of his early work. Files containing drawings and source material were created by grouping Belsky's original files together, however the material was difficult to date. Belsky kept some correspondence files separate from specific commission files although the correspondence relates to his work, for example, a file of sculpture contracts were kept separate from the commission files. The collection arrangement is in keeping with this. There are several files which consist of written material on Belsky, and include draft and published articles and preparatory material for an unpublished monograph. The section that relates to societies consists of files of correspondence, minutes and reports, which are grouped in the way that Belsky had files them. His personal papers relate to his first wife Margaret Belsky, and properties in England and Italy.
The collection consists of:
- Section A: Portraits, [1939-1990]
- Section B: Memorials, [1940-1993]
- Section C: Carvings and Belsky's early exhibitions, [1943-1983]
- Section D: Commemorative statues, [1940-1993]
- Section E: Fountains, [1949-1991]
- Section F: Public and architectural sculpture, [1951-1993]
- Section G: Sketches and drawings, n.d. [1940s-1990s]
- Section H: Source material and photographs, [1940s-1970s]
- Section I: Correspondence and contracts relating to commissions, 1957-1990
- Section J: Material on Franta Belsky, 1930-1992
- Section K: Societies, 1951-1994
- Section L: Personal papers, 1929-1992