A bronze frieze of London’s Underground commuters

There is in St Pancras a monumental sculpture by Paul Day, called The Meeting Place, which is intended to evoke the romance of travel through the depiction of a couple locked in an amorous embrace

It is also almost universally loathed.

The Meeting Place

However, a year later, something rather nice was added to the base — a bronze frieze that runs around the pedestal, and that is rather good indeed.

That frieze was actually changed substantially from an earlier more controversial design that had included a dead train driver and a character which some po-faced sorts said intimated he was an attempted suicide.

Controversy aside, I haven’t really been up close to The Meeting Place, as it is so large that it seemed unnecessary to get up close to it. It’s also pretty bloody ugly, so why bother.

Then I remembered the frieze, which seems to have a blend of M. C. Escher and Tim Burton in the twisted distortions of the landscape. In a contradiction of the statue above which is supposed to be providing an uplifting vision of travel, the commuters below look tediously bored.

It’s also an exceptionally deep work of art, rewarding closer inspection to see around the foreground characters to the detailing within.

I really like it.

The Meeting Place - frieze

A child’s hand around the other side, and here, the dogs head have had the patina rubbed off by many hands caressing them.

The Meeting Place - frieze

Frozen forever in the rush hour crush.

The Meeting Place - frieze

Contemplation

The Meeting Place - frieze

The builders of the tube network are not overlooked.

The Meeting Place - frieze

So do get up close to the sculpture and have a look at its base. Just don’t look up.

The Meeting Place - frieze

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11 Comments

  1. As with all art – to each his own. I’ve always loved this statue. Really fits perfectly in St. Pancras.

  2. Agree that it seems to go unnoticed. I first bumped into this lovely piece on returning from France on Eurostar, as I was searching for place that did real English breakfasts.
    What really impressed was the three dimensional aspect.
    A great piece of work.

  3. Zoe

    I’m so glad that you’ve written about the frieze which I find quite moving. It includes scenes of soldiers leaving for and returning from war, maintenance of the railway, many, many commuters, and society’s outcasts. It is stunning in its observation and detail. Hogarth for the 21st Century.

  4. JJ

    Wow! If you look really hard, you can even see the occasional woman and some people of non-European appearance. (Can we deduce anything about the committee that approved this?)

    • IanVisits

      (Can we deduce anything about the committee that approved this?)

      That they don’t believe in quota based design?

  5. Andrew Bowden

    I have never had a massive problem with The Meeting Place – it’s fine for what it is – but I remember watching a BBC Two programme on St Pancras and being astounded about the debates of what kind of shoe the woman should be wearing.

    In the end, they removed the strap. A vital decision I’m sure all would agree.

  6. Sculpt Head

    Fascinating – I visited the foundry several years ago while the frieze was being worked on, & it looks to have changed – for the better. Sculpture is partly about improving the space it occupies, while making you aware of what might also be there. Personally I don’t like the main statue, but that is purely my taste. It succeeds in evoking the fleeting ‘goodbye’ most stations experience. Thanks again Ian, enjoy your posts.

  7. John

    Yes, I really like the friezes too – he also did the Battle of Britain memorial on the Embankment, and the friezes for the George VI and Queen Elizabeth memorial on The Mall which I think are superb as well. I’m with the majority on the main statue at St P though, it makes me cringe.

  8. Simon H

    The chap with the beard in the “builders of the tube” photo is a self-portrait of the artist, Paul Day. I think he also did the Battle of Britain memorial on the Victoria embankment Agree with your analysis – crap statue (The only one in London with a VPL?), great frieze.

  9. Peter T

    I think the sculpture is really ugly. The eyes are too elongated and it looks like two aliens embracing! The clock above is nicer. Horrid statue. Frieze is ok but the figures look more sad than happy. Who is Paul Day?

    • ianvisits

      If you type Paul Day into Google, his website is the top result returned.

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