John W Mills ARCA PPRBS FRSA 1933 - 2023 'Sculptor to the Nation'.

Dec 04, 2023

It is with sadness I share the death of John W Mills on 24 October 2023. John was a good friend of Curwen Print Study Centre for over 20 years. He was a supporter since our inception in 2000, having worked with Stanley Jones on editioning his own prints in The Curwen Studio which was then physically adjacent to us. John became a Trustee and in latter years was an Honorary Fellow until his death. He was always interested in our progress and passionately believed that handcrafted creative skills must be preserved for future generations. John came from a traditional background of a school of art and his own work started by creating study drawings then moving towards a small bronze macquette before finally creating / upscaling to a full size bronze finished piece. Over the years he was involved at CPSC personally in courses, created original limited edition prints and donated prints to raise money for Curwen Print Study Centre. When we moved to new bespoke studios in March 2022 he donated a sculpture of William Blake for the new gallery as shown in the photo. John was a gentle and kind man who always gave a balanced opinion on sometimes difficult issues, his talent and fame never affected these much valued qualities and alongside his sense of humour he was a pleasure to know.

John W Mills was a Sculptor whose work was recognised both nationally and internationally and he has pieces across the world in public and private collections. In the UK his most well known works are the memorial to William Blake in Soho, 'Blitz' the nation’s firefighters at St Paul’s Cathedral, and to the Women of World War II in Whitehall, which was unveiled – all 23 tons of it – by The late Queen Elizabeth II. 

I would like to replicate the words John wrote to be his biography/accompany his photograph as a Trustee on our website:
"There is a definite empathy between sculpture and printmaking that may not be obvious, because it focuses in the materials and processes of both disciplines as well as the fundamental importance of drawing. Metal working tools equipment and chemicals are common to both sculpture and printmaking and their mastery enables the transition from one to the other fairly painlessly. It should be remembered however that the image dictates the handling of materials not the other way round and good drawing is fundamental to both.

The work of John Mills illustrates this compatibility detectable in his long career using both disciplines. The work he has produced over the years starts at junior art school, advancing to senior art school, both at Hammersmith and then progressing to The Royal College of Art Sculpture Dept. a total of twelve years. Junior art school for three years was a solid introduction to many disciplines including Printmaking and Sculpture providing a strong basis for the practise and understand of craft relative to expression. His work ever since those days has included images of people he admires, both living heroes and others from art and history, he like the frisson of trying to make ‘art from art’ that this allows. Sport and dance feature prominently in his life and therefore in his work and he continues to find excitement depicting the physical beauty of the human figure in action and repose, accepting the challenge of trying to make a powerful statement using a beautiful subject. He sometimes makes a brief lapse to make a brutal image that permits the pleasure of free gestural modelling in both disciplines. The graphic power of lithography and etching with their comparative speed of production and thought, encompasses the pleasure. The beauty that is powerful and power that is beautiful interests Mills more than simple reproduction imitating life with little or no interpretation and is an important aspect of his sculpture, printmaking and drawing."

 Thank you John - you will be much missed on both a personal and business level.  

Lorraine Chitson - Centre Director