Ivor Roberts-Jones was born on 2 November 1913. He studied at Goldsmiths’ College School of Art (from 1932) and at the Royal Academy Schools (from 1935). Then, during the Second World War, he served in the 53rd Welsh Division of the Royal Artillery and saw action in the Jungle Field Artillery in Burma (1940-46). On his return to London, he took a studio at Holland Park which he retained until his death, and became a part-time teacher at Goldsmiths’ College. He produced a portrait head of Clive Gardiner, the Principal of Goldsmiths’ College School of Art, in 1953, and in the same year held his first solo show at the Beaux-Arts Gallery.
Commissions soon followed for a half life-size bronze of St Francis for the Lady Chapel, Ardleigh Church, Essex (1955), and a portrait of Somerset Maugham from Lord Beaverbrook (1961); while the Tate Gallery purchased his portrait head of Paul Claudel (1960). A travelling show of contemporary sculpture, organised by the Welsh Arts Council in 1961, included ten of his works.
Following the death of Augustus John on 31 October 1961, Roberts-Jones was commissioned to produce a memorial to be sited in Fordingbridge, Hampshire, the place in which the painter had lived and died. The organising committee had originally hoped that his partner and model, Dorelia, would be included in the composition, but funds did not allow. The resulting single figure – for which the present work was a study – was executed in the sculptor’s London studio and completed in 1967. His first full-scale commission, this brought him public recognition, and led to his election as an associate of the Royal Academy (1969). It also enabled him to purchase a small yacht, which he kept at Portsmouth, and later at Woodbridge.
During the making of the Augustus John memorial, Roberts-Jones was appointed Head of the Sculpture Department at Goldsmiths’ College (1964-78). While in this key position, he was asked by the Royal Fine Arts Commission to produce what has become his most famous work: the Winston Churchill monument in Parliament Square, Westminster (1970-73; installed 1975). Election as a Royal Academician (1973) and the award of a CBE (1975) soon followed, as did the commission for a further Winston Churchill monument in New Orleans (1977). The Welsh Arts Council mounted a solo show at the Oriel Gallery, in Cardiff, in 1978.
From 1970, Roberts-Jones shared his time between London and Suffolk, living first in Cratfield and then, from 1986, in Shimpling. He died on 9 December 1996.