It was Winston Churchill who, in a 1946 speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, coined the term “Iron Curtain” to characterize the growing divide between the capitalist and communist wings of the World War II Allies. Churchill’s granddaughter, the noted artist Edwina Sandys, MBE, has called the Berlin Wall “the physical embodiment of the Iron Curtain.” After the Wall was dismantled in 1989, the reunited German government gave Sandys her pick of eight of its concrete panels to use as a medium for her art.
The result was a sculpture titled Breakthrough, which retains the Wall’s original graffiti but is penetrated by voids in the form of two human silhouettes, one male and one female. Breakthrough was installed on the Westminster College campus by then-president Ronald Reagan in 1990, and in 1992, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader whose reforms enabled the reunification of Germany, visited the site and became one of many who have embraced the symbolism of walking right through the remains of the once-daunting Wall.
But what became of those two cutouts? Sandys preserved them, and in 1994 they were installed as a separate sculpture in an area called the Freedom Court on the grounds of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. Now titled BreakFree, the 12-foot-tall concrete figures emerge from a tangle of oversized barbed wire. In 2007, Sandys also commissioned a bronze head of her grandfather by Oscar Nemon to join the bust of FDR in the Freedom Court.
On Saturday, September 21, looking forward to the 30th anniversary this November of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Sandys returns to Hyde Park to give a talk on BreakFree and her historic family legacy. Attendees will gather at 4 p.m. in the lobby of the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center and walk to the sculpture site. You can visit the FDR Library and Museum from 9 a.m. on, so you can make a day of it, learning about the important working relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill during World War II. Visit www.fdrlibrary.org to reserve your place for the Edwina Sandys lecture.
Lecture by sculptor Edwina Sandys, Saturday, Sept. 21, 4 p.m., Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, 4079 Albany Post Rd. (Rt. 9), Hyde Park, www.fdrlibrary.org