Jagger, in his introduction to his book “Modelling and Sculpture in the Making”, wrote that the sculptor had chosen the most exciting, the most arduous and the least appreciated of all the arts. Financially, the future would be a gamble with the odds against him. Although there are many tools needed for the actual modelling, and also for the making of armatures, backgrounds for reliefs and so on, the most useful tools the sculptor possesses are his own two hands.
Charles Sargeant Jagger was born at Kilnhurst, near Sheffield, on the 17th December 1885. His father, Enoch, was a colliery manager, the family was not rich and as art offered no guarantee of an income, Jagger’s father would not let his son study sculpture. But as Jagger had shown that he had talent in drawing, he was apprenticed to Mappin and Webb as a metal engraver at the age of fourteen. In 1905, having completed his apprenticeship, he was offered a teaching post at Sheffield Technical School of Art. For the next two years, Jagger taught metal engraving in the evenings and studied sculpture during the day. Then, in 1907, he was awarded a scholarship by the West Riding County Council to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Here, he achieved considerable success in his studies, and he was awarded a number of prizes which enabled him to visit Italy and North Africa in 1911. He belonged to a circle of friends that also produced two world-famous sculptures, namely William McMillan and William Reid Dick.
On the 2nd December 1914, Jagger enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles. But it was not until the 23rd September 1915 that he set sail with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force for Gallipoli. He was by then a 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Battalion Royal Worcesters. Jagger described their send-off at Plymouth as “magnificent” and as “one of the greatest days I shall live to see.” Little could have prepared him for the conditions under which he was to serve. The rocky landscape, prickly scrub that grew everywhere, flies and insects, and the total lack of washing facilities. Veterans that had come directly from the Western Front longed for the mud of Flanders. However, on the 5th November, he was shot through the left shoulder and shipped out to the Blue Sisters’ Hospital on Malta. A story was told afterwards that the doctors were going to amputate Jagger’s arm but for the intervention of a nurse (a fellow artist’s daughter) who recognised Jagger as a sculptor and insisted on nursing him back to full health. This was later found to be a myth, the truth being that his wound was completely clean, no amputation was suggested and he met the nurse during his recuperation !
Jagger’s experiences at Gallipoli continued to haunt him for many years after. It was this period of service, not the trenches in France, which he remembered with deep horror and these feelings made him resolve to record his experiences in sculpture.
In March of 1916, Jagger returned to England where he married Violet Constance Smith. Before long, Jagger was declared fit and he was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and was sent to the Newton Rifle Range on the Isle of Wight. Eighteen months later, he was sent out to the Western Front and on the 15th April 1918 was badly wounded. He had been shot two inches above the heart at the Battle of Neuve Eglise. In recognition of his valour, he was awarded the Military Cross. Jagger had nearly recovered by the time the Armistice was declared. While he was convalescing, he was told that the British War Memorials Committee was about to employ sculptors. He was awarded his first commission which depicted the 1st Battle of Ypres in 1914 - the Worcesters at Gheluvelt. Further commissions were forthcoming. In 1919, “No Man’s Land” commissioned by the British School at Rome and the Hoylake and West Kirby war memorial commissioned by Wirral Council for Grange Hill, above Hoylake and West Kirby. In 1921, the following memorials were commissioned. “The Sentry” was commissioned by S. & J. Watts for their warehouse in Portland Street, Manchester, now the Britannia Hotel; the Portsmouth war memorial was commissioned by the Portsmouth City Council for the Municipal Park, Southsea; the Bedford war memorial was commissioned by Bedford Council.
Sculptures of Earl Beatty and Earl Haig (see photo of Earl Haig sculpture) were commissioned by the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, for Queen Mary’s doll’s house in 1921 and the doll’s house was erected in 1923. It was a miniature palace inside Windsor Castle and was more opulently decorated than the humble abodes of her loyal, grown-up subjects. Every furnishing was reproduced by Britain’s finest craftsmen to a 12th of its actual size. The doll’s house included a miniature copy of Hutton and Hutton’s standardised railway timetable, the A.B.C. for 1923, which was perfectly readable with the aid of a very large magnifying glass. It is thought that the information giving all the train times across the UK network on pages measuring only a few millimetres may have been engraved with a very fine needle.
Other memorials included the Anglo-Belgian memorial in Brussels, a gift of the English people to the Belgians; the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London, commissioned by the Royal Artillery War
Commemoration Fund; the Nieuwpoort memorial to the missing, commissioned by the Imperial War Graves
Commission; the Port Tewfik memorial at Suez, commissioned by the Imperial War Graves Commission and the Tank memorial at Louverval, Cambrai, France, also commissioned by the Imperial War Graves Commission.
Jagger’s death on the 16th November, 1934, at the age of 48 was almost completely unexpected, although in retrospect his war wounds and the long hours he constantly worked made his early death from a heart condition seem less surprising. Between 1918 and 1934, he had produced some 45 works (equivalent to two a year). With this quantity of work behind him and the great majority of it done on commission, it is natural to ask whether he was forced to compromise. Jagger was said to have been skilled at persuading people to let him do what he wanted (the Royal Artillery War Commemoration Fund minutes reveal instances of this) and the fact that many of his patrons also became his friends, must have given him great flexibility. There is evidence presented by the remarkable body of work he left behind him which is in itself sufficient evidence of his having made a very personal and extremely powerful statement.
“Modelling and Sculpture in the making” by Sargeant Jagger, published for the Studio Ltd. 1933.
“War and Peace and Sculpture” edited by Ann Compton, published by the Imperial War Museum,1985.
Christopher Wright writing in the Antiques Trade Gazette, March 2002.
PLEASE NOTE - all items shown in this article have now been sold.