Now with spring well on the way, our City of London colleagues who are looking after the parks and green spaces must get horribly busy. Their bedding plants already brighten up the often grey surroundings. I imagine it to be a labour of love and hope, not to forget the physical effort.
The Gardener, a sculpture by Karin Jonzen at Brewers' Hall Garden, represents all these aspects. It was commissioned 50 years ago in 1971 and relocated from Moorgate in 2005. The life-sized bronze statue depicts a male figure in sensible working clothes, with his left knee bent and his right foot planted on the ground. His right hand rests upon his right knee, with his elbow pointing skywards. His left hand is stretched out, touching the ground in front of him as if tending to a plant. His head is in a downward position paying attention to what he is doing. If this sounds like a yoga position, let me assure you that indeed he seems to be taking care of his back. Mind you, a statue sticking out its behind to the public would not have been very appealing.
The Gardener’s creator, Karin Jonzen, was born Löwenadler to Swedish parents in London in December 1914. What a powerful name, meaning “Lion-Eagle”, like out of a Harry Potter book. Originally wanting to become a cartoonist, she soon decided to concentrate on sculpture instead. Although her road to growing into a respected artist is intriguing – so is her private life. It seems her parents sent her to Stockholm in order to get her away from a boyfriend of whom they disapproved. There she met and fell in love with a penniless young Swedish poet, Ake Sucksdorff, and so was promptly hauled back to England again! In 1944 she met Basil Jonzen, another Anglo-Swede. Basil is now almost forgotten, but he was a kind of meteor in the British art world during the immediate post-war years. An artist and a collector with a wonderfully sharp eye, he later discovered the young Elizabeth Frink. After he and Karin married, they ran a successful art gallery. Karin's own career as a sculptor was pulled along with it. Unfortunately, Basil’s personality deteriorated due to alcoholism and they divorced.
In the 1970s she had another matrimonial disaster. She went to Stockholm and rediscovered her old flame Ake Sucksdorff. Impulsively she married him, only to find that he had become a totally negative personality, completely cut off from life. "It never entered my head," she said later, "that Ake wasn't telling the truth about himself. It took just one week of marriage to discover this!" She stayed with him, however, until Ake died. Karin passed away in London in January 1998.
We in the City are lucky to have three of her artworks: the Gardener, busy nursing his plants and the bust of young Samuel Pepys at Seething Lane Gardens, who seems to be on the look-out for what the future will bring. Literally “Beyond Tomorrow”, her composition of a seated male and a reclining female nude figure, outside the Guildhall North Wing.