We are Victoria and Sarah from South Wilts Grammar School, on student placement at Salisbury Museum. We were looking around the museum and found the works by Peter Thursby particularly compelling. We therefore decided to research him and comment a little on his work. We hope that you find our interpretation interesting, even if you do not agree with it.

Thursby was born in Salisbury on the 23 December 1930 and was educated at Bishops Wordsworth School. Although possibly unrelated to his artwork, it is interesting to know that Thursby’s English teacher was William Goulding, who, as we are sure you know, is the author of Lord of the Flies. Thursby completed his national service in the Army, which may well have had an influence (conscious or otherwise) on his later artwork. He studied art at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham and the West of England and Exeter Colleges of Art and then became an art teacher.

Thursby’s main focus was sculpture, with his symbolic and abstract style, it is no surprise that he gained his main success in the 1960s after friendships with others who would invite him to galleries, and initially it was the attentions of influential gallery owner Marjorie Parr. As he gained a reputation, he began to be commissioned for both public and private works e.g. an important public commission for Devon county council for the tall sculpture Vertical Winged Form for a new school at Plymstock as well as a corporate piece with engineering imagery.

Our favourite sculpture in the museum is called Rising Optimism, which was created in 2001. Made out of stainless steel, the piece is strikingly aesthetic with a smooth and shiny appearance. We were intrigued by the recurring idea of optimism in Thursby’s work, and although we do not know, for us we imagine that his experience in the Army would have called for much need for optimism in his life, and these sculptures may, in a way, be a sort of reflection on his time in the Army. We also think that as a school teacher he would have experienced optimism in a different way, and, for us, the way that the sculpture widens as in goes up and splits in to two, almost in a tree-like way, can show growing and reaching for more, an idea often encouraged by teachers to the students. This is all only our personal interpretation of the work, so please don’t quote us. We also appreciated his sketches regarding his sculptures, in particular ‘Expanding Form Optimism’ which adds colour to a similar idea. We like the shade of blue, as although blue is typically associated with sadness, there is a certain hope to the sketch, particularly with the addition of the gentle background yellow. This perhaps suggests that there is always cause to be optimistic, even in the saddest of times. Overall, we have interpreted Thursby’s artwork is an inspiring and uplifting way, whilst not ignoring any potential sorrow in each of our lives.

Rising Optimism