Norwich sculptor behind 'Flight of Birds' installation has died aged 82

The sculptor Ros Newman photographed with her famous sculpture, the Flight of Birds

The sculptor Ros Newman has died aged 82. Here she is photographed with her famous sculpture, the Flight of Birds, which is on display at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

An “inspirational and prolific” sculptor from a family dominated by artists and creatives has died at the age of 82. 

Born Rosamund Alice Wade on March 29, 1939, in Highgate in London, she became known by her professional name, Ros Newman. 

As a child, her family lived in Holland Park, London. Her mother, who was also an artist, became unwell and had to go into a nursing home while Ms Newman was sent to Sarratt school in Hertfordshire at the age of three. 

Ros Newman during her early days as a sculptor

Ros Newman during her early days as a sculptor - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A small and progressive school at the time, pupils there would call teachers by their first names and did not wear school uniforms. It was here Ms Newman’s interest in using her hands began to develop when she started teaching woodwork to the younger children. 

Later she attended Frances Holland school in London before her mother returned to the family home. 

Surrounded by a family of artists, her uncle Sir John Rothenstein was director of the Tate (1938 to 1964) and her grandfather was Sir William Rothenstein, an English painter, printmaker, draughtsman and former Principal of the Royal College of Art (1920 to 1935) where he mentored Henry Moore. More than 200 of Sir William’s paintings are held in the National Portrait Gallery. 

It is unsurprising then that by the age of 12, Ms Newman was creating creatures from clay.  

Ros Newman during her early days as a sculptor

Ros Newman during her early days as a sculptor - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

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She began her studies at Chelsea Art School at the age of 16 but, finding it was not for her, she left and taught before attending Hammersmith College of Art where she discovered her love for welding. She developed a unique method of oxy-acetylene welding to use steel as a modelling material. Her first piece was a standing soldier made of bits of metal she found on the floor of the workshop. 

Initially creating works on a domestic scale, she later began making large outdoor installations in stainless steel. 

She was married three times and gave birth to her daughter, Delphi Newman, in July 1963. 

Ros Newman during her early days as a sculptor

Ros Newman during her early days as a sculptor - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

She described her mother as “one of a kind, forceful, fun, intense, uncompromising and sensitive".

She added: “She was creative in absolutely everything she did, from her artwork to gardening, fixing things around the house - she was also incredibly practical, making clothes, cooking. 

“She was a great host of many parties and we would play games. The most memorable was a card game called Racing Demon. It became such a stock family go-to that she sculpted a crown to be passed on by winners of long matches, which could go on for several days over Christmas. 

“She was always great fun and never lost that childish wonder in how extraordinary life is.” 

Ros Newman's Flight of Birds sculpture at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich

Ros Newman's Flight of Birds sculpture at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

She first exhibited her work in 1969 and mounted her first solo show in 1971 at London’s Alwin Gallery. It was a sell-out and she used the proceeds to buy an old barn in Fakenham in 1972. 

Ms Newman moved to Norwich in 1979 and soon after started teaching evening art classes at Wensum Lodge where she met her third husband, Chris. She worked on her art both from her studio in Norfolk and during her time overseas in Tobago in South America and Taiwan in East Asia. 

In 2001, the Norwich Contemporary Art Society raised funds to erect her Flight of Birds sculpture at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital – a dramatic sculpture featuring flights of stainless steel birds. 

Ros Newman working on the Flight of Birds sculpture at her studio

Ros Newman working on the Flight of Birds sculpture at her studio - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

In 2019, ahead of celebrating her 80th birthday, The Fairhurst Gallery on Bedford Street in the city held a retrospective exhibition to showcase the life and work of Ms Newman, entitled Woman of Steel. 

A spokesperson for the gallery said: “Her beautiful creations that hold so much of who she reminds us that we will always have a part of her.” 

She was a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors, the Norwich 20 Group, and the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society and is quoted for once saying: “Steel found me and I embraced her with all my passion.” 

Sculptor Ros Newman

Sculptor Ros Newman - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Ms Newman died last month at home at the age of 82. She leaves behind her daughter and granddaughter Cece.

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