Tyne River God

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The Tyne River God is an odd object, hanging in acres of white wall space in Newcastle’s civic library.  I had long been meaning to visit as an engraving of the head or mask is on the frontispiece of the edition of Carmichael’s engravings in ‘Pictures of Newcastle  that I had been studying in the autumn.

It was carved as a printer’s sign for Aaron Richardson in 1827, becoming an emblem for Andrew Reid and Co. right up to the 1960’s.  The carving is a copy of  a stone original on the front of Somerset house(1786).  It depicts the early industries of the river, coal in a basket with pickaxes, fish nets and possibly corn.

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The idea of a sculpture of a Tyne River God, comes from classical and neo classical sculptural traditions of depicting the spirit of a river.  In the case of the Tyne,  this theme was further updated by David Wynne who was commissioned by Newcastle City Council for a monumental sculpture for the civic centre.  His dynamic Tyne River God is  dramatically posed pointing from the side of the building, his shaggy hair shadowing a dark and broody head all stained by Tyneside weather, seeming to summon water or coal from the very ground.

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It is nearly 50 years since the sculpture was commissioned, David Wynne sadly died in 2014, never really accepted as a leading sculptor, irrespective of his many major commissions. 

What would a contemporary Tyne God would look like?

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