Isaac Newton sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi

This 12-foot bronze statue by sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi (1924–2005) in the Piazza depicts Sir Isaac Newton in the search for knowledge.

Based on William Blake’s watercolour Newton (1795–c.1805), the six-tonne sculpture was cast by the Morris Singer Foundry established in 1848, best known for the Trafalgar Square lions.

Blake’s original watercolour shows Newton surrounded by the glories of nature but oblivious to it all. Instead he is focused on reducing the complexity of the universe to mathematical dimensions, bending forward with his compass.

For Paolozzi though, the interpretation of his Newton (1995) was very different. He was inspired by both Newton and Blake together – one representing science and the other representing poetry, art and the imagination, and decided that this synthesis would be perfect for the British Library.

He said: ‘While Blake may have been satirising Newton, I see this work as an exciting union of two British geniuses. Together, they present to us nature and science, poetry, art, architecture – all welded, interconnected, interdependent.’

For example, you’ll notice Newton’s body resembles a mechanical object, joined with bolts at the shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles, demonstrating the relationship between nature and science.

Architect Sir Colin St. John Wilson commissioned this sculpture as it embodies the purpose of the Library as a place serving man’s endless search for truth, both in the sciences and the humanities.

Hear more about what Wilson had to say about the artwork in this interview extract. You can also hear the full interview with him, recorded as part of National Life Stories' Architects' Lives oral history programme.

Grant for this artwork (shelfmark BLWA 1) was aided by The Foundation for Sport & the Arts. Funded by subscription from the football pools Vernons, Littlewoods and Zetters.

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