Controversial when first unveiled in the late 1920s, Jacob Epstein’s sculptures of Day and Night adorn the facade on the Grade I-listed building at 55 Broadway – home, for the present at least, to the London Underground HQ and St James’s Park Underground station.
It was the nudity and, no doubt, the stark modernist styling which provoked outrage (and newspaper campaigns) when the two sculptures – Day, depicting a seated smiling male figure with a naked boy standing in front of him and the other, Night, depicting a cowled female seated and cradling a prone, apparently resting, figure (pictured above) – were unveiled.
Such was the outcry that Frank Pick, the then head of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London (predecessor to London Underground and the organisation for whom the building was constructed), even apparently offered his resignation over it. But a compromise was reached – Epstein agreed to alter the naked figure of the boy (a rather painful snip) and the fuss soon died down. These days many people pass the building without even noticing the sculptures upon it.
Epstein’s statues aren’t the only sculptural works to adorn 55 Broadway – a series of eight smaller relief works representing the winds of each cardinal point can also be seen on the facade. All eight representations are of nude figures of different genders and were created by six different artists – Eric Gill, Alfred Gerrard, Allan Wyon, Eric Aumonier, Samuel Rabinovitch and Henry Moore (interestingly, it was Moore’s first public commission).
It’s been reported that London Underground will be vacating the building next year with the property to be converted into rather expensive flats.