Robert Tait McKenzie (Almonte, Ontario 1867 - Philadelphia 1938)
Art / Sculpture
1925 (signed and dated)
Bronze on bronze and marble base
668 x 660 mm
Place of origin
United StatesOrder this image
Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire (Accredited Museum)
Bronze on bronze and marble base, Icebird, Robert Tait McKenzie (1867-1938), 1925, signed and dated on the base below skater’s raised left leg ‘ICE BIRD by R. Tait McKenzie 1925.’ Cast by the Roman Bronze Works, New York City. The man is a figure skater, naked except for briefs and his skates; he is shown engaged in a movement known as the outside back spiral, in which he is in fact moving backwards, on his right leg, his left leg held out behind and his right hand extended outwards. He turns his head to look behind him. Mounted on a thin rectangular bronze base, in turn set on a green marble base.
Robert Tait McKenzie (for whom see NT 515046) was from an early age a passionate ice-skater. He turned to the sport as a subject for his sculpture in the 1920s, modelling over four years, 1921-25, a large frieze, Brothers of the Wind, that featured no fewer than eight figures of skaters (Hussey 1929, pp. 46-47, fig. 41). Icebird on the other hand, for whom the model was the Swiss skater Gustave François Lussi (1898-1993), focuses on a single figure about to start a movement known as the outside back spiral. Christopher Hussey explained that: ‘The skater has run forward, jumped, and turned, coming down in this position, and glides left foot foremost. As his speed decreases, he lowers his free foot, gradually bringing it down to form a pivot on which to spin to the final pose on the toes of both feet. Probably few but accomplished skaters realize from the statuette that it represents a backwards movement.’ Hussey went on to suggest that even when we understand the direction of movement, ‘the balance is so exquisitely graceful and rhythmic that the statuette is completely satisfying as an abstract form’ and that it should be looked at with the eyes half-closed, so that once ‘its representational character is dimmed and its association with motion forgotten, the high quality in the statuette will be appreciated.’ (Hussey 1929, pp. 31-32). Jeremy Warren, 2018
Probably acquired by Urban Huttleston Rogers Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven (1896-1966) at one of the Fine Art Society exhibitions, in 1927 or 1930; identifiable in Anglesey Abbey inventory of 1932 (p. 49, The Cambridge Room, valued at £40); identifiable in Anglesey Abbey inventory of 1940 (p. 151, The Library, valued at £60); bequeathed to the National Trust by Lord Fairhaven with the house and the rest of the contents.
Anglesey Abbey, The Fairhaven Collection (The National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
On surface of bronze base, below skater’s left leg: ICE BIRD | by | R. Tait McKenzie | 1925 Base, lower left corner: © On edge of bronze base, at rear: ROMAN BRONZE WORKS N.Y.
Makers and roles
Robert Tait McKenzie (Almonte, Ontario 1867 - Philadelphia 1938), sculptor Roman Bronze Works, foundry
‘Anglesey Abbey, Lode, Cambridgeshire. An Inventory and Valuation of Furniture, Pictures, Ornamental Objects, Household Effects and A Collection of Miniatures.. prepared for Insurance Purposes’, Turner, Lord and Ransom, November 1932, p. 49 'Anglesey Abbey, Lode, Cambridgeshire. An Inventory and Valuation of Furniture, Books, Ornamental Items & Household Effects .. prepared for Insurance Purposes’, Turner, Lord and Ransom, April 1940, p. 151 Christie, Manson & Woods 1971: The National Trust, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge. Inventory: Furniture, Textiles, Porcelain, Bronzes, Sculpture and Garden Ornaments’, 1971, p. 135, Silver Strong Room Exhibition of Sculpture, including Statues, Statuettes, Sketches, Portraits in Low Relief and Medals by R. Tait McKenzie, The Fine Art Society Ltd., London, July 1927, no. 12 Catalogue of an Exhibition of Sculpture by R. Tait McKenzie, R.C.A., The Fine Art Society Ltd., 17 June – 5 July, London 1930, no. 11 Hussey 1929: Christopher Hussey, Tait McKenzie. A Sculptor of Youth, London 1929, pp. 32-33, fig. 28 Kozar 1975: Andrew J. Kozar, R. Tait McKenzie. The Sculptor of Athletes, Knoxville 1975, p. 89, no. 56 McGill 1980: Jean McGill, The Joy of Effort. A biography of R. Tait McKenzie, Bewdley, Ontario 1980, pp. 137, 221