Daniel Silver to create new sculpture celebrating work of Oxford nurses

Three Figures will be part of public art scheme around former Radcliffe Infirmary

The UK artist Daniel Silver will produce a new public sculpture to celebrate the work of the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. The commission is part of a wider public art scheme for the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ), a major redevelopment project by the University of Oxford on a 10-acre site around the former Radcliffe Infirmary building.

The Radcliffe Nurses, an alumni association of nurses, which is marking its 90th anniversary this year, funded the competition and the production of a maquette, which was unveiled in Oxford at the beginning of November. A fundraising campaign has now been launched by the art agency Modus Operandi for the realisation of the final work, to be located in the ROQ, outside St Luke’s Chapel.

The sculpture, Three Figures, a group of life-sized seated nurses made from Carrara marble, was inspired by a poem by Michael Rosen, which includes the lines “These are the hands/That touch us first … And touch us last”. Silver says: “My hands are commemorating the work that such hands have done for us all. Indeed, it is with the touch of the hand that a difference is made in someone’s life, and it is with the touch of my hand on the material that it is manipulated into something else—something that has the essence of humanity.”

Three Figures is the third public work to be commissioned for the ROQ. The UK artist Simon Periton has created a site-wide work based on the fertilisation of plants, and the Polish-born, London-based artist Antoni Malinowski has produced a set of murals for the Mathematical Institute.

The Radcliffe Infirmary opened in 1770 and was the hospital at which penicillin was first tested on patients in 1941. It shut in 2007 and its services were moved to the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals.