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Melancholy Grace… The ‘Boy with a Dolphin’ Statue

Located on Chelsea’s Cheyne Walk opposite the approach to Albert Bridge, the Boy with a Dolphin sculpture is widely considered to be one of London’s most graceful public works of art.

Boy with a Dolphin

The piece was created by Sir David Wynne; a self-taught artist who established his studio on Campden Hill, Holland Park in the early 1960s.

Sir David Wynne at work in the 1960s (image: BBC)

Sir David Wynne at work in the 1960s (image: BBC)

Shortly after setting up shop, Sir David was invited to sculpt the heads of all four Beatles; a task which required him to spend considerable time with the group and led to a lasting friendship.

Sir David Wynne with his Beatles busts.

Sir David Wynne with his Beatles busts (image via the Daily Mail).

It was in fact Sir David who introduced the Fab Four to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; an association which led to the Beatles making a visit to the guru’s meditation school in India; a period which greatly influenced much of their later work.

The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967.

The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967.

Other noted works by Sir David Wynne include a bust of a young Prince Charles, the Queen Mother Gates (which provide an entry point onto South Carriage Drive, Hyde Park) and a statue of ‘Guy’ the Gorilla; one of London Zoo’s most celebrated inmates.

Today, Wynne’s statue of Guy can be spotted in Crystal Palace Park.

Guy the Gorilla, Crystal Palace (image: Secret London)

Guy the Gorilla, Crystal Palace (image: Secret London)

Having read Zoology at Cambridge, it comes as no surprise that sculpting creatures is Sir David Wynne’s true passion, especially when they are shown to be interacting with humans.

Dolphin

His famed Boy With a Dolphin creation (which is frustratingly situated in a very un-photogenic location), was first unveiled in October 1975 as a follow on from an earlier sculpture; the equally balletic Girl with a Dolphin which can be found outside the Guoman Tower Hotel near St Katherine’s Dock.

Girl With a Dolphin, sculpted by Sir David Wynne in 1973. (Image via Geograph; copyright Paul Gillett).

Girl With a Dolphin, sculpted by Sir David Wynne in 1973. (Image via Geograph; copyright Paul Gillett).

Of his Boy With a Dolphin statue, Sir David says that “the boy is being shown that if you trust the world, the thrills and great happiness are yours… if one meets a dolphin in the sea, he is the genial host, you the honoured guest.”

The pair’s delicate, gravity defying appearance is a great technical achievement, accomplished with the use of a double cantilever.

Boy with a Dolphin

There are actually three casts of this statue… the other two can be found in America; one on Chestnut Place Plaza, Worcester, Massachusetts and the other outside the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota.

Boy With a Dolphin, Rochester, Minnesota (image: Gerrard Corporation).

Boy With a Dolphin, Rochester, Minnesota (image: Gerrard Corporation).

The boy featured in the artwork was modelled upon Sir David’s son; Roland David Amadeus Wynne (Roly for short) who was 11 years old at the time and later went on to play bass in a rock band known as Ozric Tentacles.

Roly

Tragically, in 1999 at the age of 35, Roly committed suicide.

Today, the beautiful, sweeping statue depicting him in more innocent times has been dedicated to Roly as a memorial.

Roly's Memorial

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18 responses

  1. Another great post bring a little corner of London alive.

    Thank you

  2. What an amazing piece of engineering and beauty. So sad that it’s his son’s memorial too. Thank you for sharing. Love the snowflakes while I’m reading too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    1. Many thanks, Beryl. Same to you too.

  3. R.I.P. Roly,thanks for the bass lines

  4. Thank your for sharing this. I love David Wynne´s statues, especially the ones with such movement in them. I am lucky I found your lovely website.

    1. My pleasure, many thanks for the kind comments and for reading my site 🙂

  5. It’s such a shame it’s not in a more public place it’s certainly a work of art.

    1. It is a pretty un-photogenic location 😦

  6. RIP Roly. Thanks for all the music.

  7. Always loved the sculpture -and the Ozrics for nearly 30 years too. Glad he’s remembered by name there now -but I’ll always feel a stab of sadness when I see it that he only got to 35. RIP Roly, but may your music never die!

    1. Nice comment, wubster. Many thanks.

  8. I’m looking forward to visit this beauty within a month or so. Thanks all!

  9. Began listening to Roly’s incredible bass lines at the age of 17 when I first discovered The Ozrics whilst travelling.Will never forget him & hope he has finally found peace.Fly high Dive deep my friend for now you are truly free.

    1. Lovely comment, Mich thank you.

  10. […] This week’s theme is ‘weird and wonderful sculptures of London’. Today, we salute the elegant Boy with Dolphin by David Wynne, which stands somewhat incongruously outside a car show room on the Chelsea waterfront. We include it here not only because it’s a superb work of art, but also for the stories behind it. Wynne is a prolific sculptor, whose London work includes the similar Girl with Dolphin near Tower Bridge, and Guy the Gorilla in Crystal Palace Park. He was also very close to The Beatles and introduced them to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The boy in the sculpture is modelled on the artist’s son, Roly Wynne. After frolicking with bronze dolphins, Roly went on to found Ozric Tentacles, a long-running psychadelic rock band who’ve released dozens of albums. Sadly, Roly committed suicide in 1999, and his life is now commemorated in a memorial at the base of the sculpture. You can find out more about the talented Wynne family in this interview, and on the excellent View From The Mirror blog. […]

  11. […] This week’s theme is ‘weird and wonderful sculptures of London’. Today, we salute the elegant Boy with Dolphin by David Wynne, which stands somewhat incongruously outside a car show room on the Chelsea waterfront. We include it here not only because it’s a superb work of art, but also for the stories behind it. Wynne is a prolific sculptor, whose London work includes the similar Girl with Dolphin near Tower Bridge, and Guy the Gorilla in Crystal Palace Park. He was also very close to The Beatles and introduced them to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The boy in the sculpture is modelled on the artist’s son, Roly Wynne. After frolicking with bronze dolphins, Roly went on to found Ozric Tentacles, a long-running psychadelic rock band who’ve released dozens of albums. Sadly, Roly committed suicide in 1999, and his life is now commemorated in a memorial at the base of the sculpture. You can find out more about the talented Wynne family in this interview, and on the excellent View From The Mirror blog. […]

  12. […] Wikipedia Obituary Guardian Obituary Telegraph View from the Mirror Small silver version of Boy with Dolphin Book: Jonathan Stone, The Sculpture of David Wynne […]

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