That’s right. This week we decided to track down the Leader of the Free World. He might sit in the oval office but, when in London, it seems that he prefers to hang out in squares…
FDR, Grosvenor Square
You can’t sit comfortably in Grosvenor Square. Armed guards doggedly patrol the Western end, protecting the US embassy. The giant gilt eagle nesting atop this concrete cliff adds another layer of menace. And then there’s its mate, perching on the Eagle Squadron memorial to the south of the square. But Roosevelt is the undoubted centrepiece, standing on a high plinth to the north. The statue was unveiled in 1948 by Roosevelt’s redoubtable widow, Eleanor. The sculptor was Sir William Reid Dick, a renowned Scottish artist with numerous commissions around London.
Eisenhower, Grosvenor Square
A further piece of Americana in Grosvenor Square is this superb monument to the great general and reasonably great president, who lived close by during WWII. With hands on hips, high-waisted action slacks and a distant gaze, Dwight D cuts a dashing figure. Robert Lee Dean’s simple lines fit in well with the stark backdrop of the Yank embassy. The metal man dates to 1989, and was unveiled, appropriately, by the Iron Lady, Maggie Thatcher.
George Washington, Trafalgar Square
Washington, looking rather drunk here, totters to the right of the National Gallery’s main entrance. The head of state rests his left hand on a bundle of rods, known as a fasces. This is an ancient symbol of power, and the 13 rods in this fasces represent the 13 original states. Unfortunately for old Washington, it’s also become a totem of fascism, and shares the same word root. Oh dear. The whole ensemble rests on a ploughshare to emphasise the pastoral foundations of the country. Unveiled in 1921, it is one of many bronze replicas of a famous 18th Century marble original by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
JFK, Marylebone Road
In a twist on the old cliché, we know exactly where we were the day this photo of President Kennedy was shot. Marylebone Road, eastern end. The oxidised copper noggin contrasts pleasantly with the infinite stucco surroundings of ‘Nash-ville’. The bust dates from 1965 and was crafted by Jacques Lipchitz, more famous for his cubist creations.
FDR with Churchill, Old Bond Street
This unusual sculpture, named ‘Allies’, is FDR’s second London appearance. And you can easily walk right past without noticing it. The lifesize wartime leader reclines on a park bench, deep in conversation with Churchill. Says the latter: “I told you Stalin wouldn’t fall for that old yawning with outstretched arms move”. Or perhaps Winnie is explaining to the US president that cigars can also be smoked. Whatever, Lawrence Hofcener’s informal bronze portrayal suggests that the two are not just allies, but friends.
Abe Lincoln, Parliament Square
Four score and seven years ago…well, it was 1920, so almost…this looming presidential bronze was unveiled to the British public. Lincoln stands in a thoughtful pose as if enumerating the spent chewing gum surrounding his pedestal. Like the Washington statue, this is a bronze copy of an original (to be found in Lincoln Park, Chicago). This time the sculptor was Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who bears a passing resemblance to the 16th president. A bust of Lincoln can also be found inside the Royal Exchange.
As an update to this article, Ronald Reagan was given a statue in Grosvenor Square in July 2011. Full story here.
What, no memorial to James Knox Polk or Chester A Arthur? Or have we missed something? Let us know if you’ve found any other presidents lurking about town. And who should we stalk next?