Natasha Phoenix’s sculpture celebrates ‘greatest Scot’ Elsie Inglis

Natasha Phoenix’s sculpture celebrates ‘greatest Scot’ Elsie Inglis

A WORK of art celebrating the “greatest Scot” will be unveiled on Monday.

Scottish doctor, surgeon, teacher and suffragist Elsie Inglis established maternity services for poor women in Edinburgh.

During the First World War, she set up more than a dozen hospitals for injured soldiers across Europe.

Now, artist Natasha Phoenix is getting ready to hand over a sculpture of Elsie, who died in 1917, to the Surgeons’ Hall Museums in Edinburgh before it goes on to find a permanent home in the Fellows Playfair corridor.

East Lothian Courier: Natasha Phoenix's sculpture of Elsie Inglis will find a home in Edinburgh next week

Natasha said: “I think Elsie Inglis is our greatest Scot. Not only did she devote her entire life to helping others but she used her privileged status to raise money to help our poorest and most vulnerable.

“The hospital for women and children in Edinburgh was run by a completely female staff and served the most needy in the city.

“It really was the start of modern maternity care in the western world.

“She also opened a milk bank to assist those who couldn’t breastfeed, saving countless babies from death and TB.

“Of course, she funded, then created, the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during the First World War and saved countless lives.

“In many Baltic countries, she’s actually very well celebrated and is revered in Serbia for all of the amazing work she did.

“She was an ardent feminist, a suffragist and apparently one of the kindest people you could meet.

“We talk now about understanding our privilege; well, Elsie Inglis understood her privilege over 100 years ago!”

Natasha, 48, has worked on “possibly 50 versions” of Elsie over six months.

She sculpted in clay before making a mould using silicone and plaster. A cold cast bronze was created in the mould before the work was finished off with a patina.

East Lothian Courier: Natasha Phoenix's sculpture of Elsie Inglis will find a home in Edinburgh next week

The artist said: “Using all of the pictures, I recreated her skull.

“Soft tissue was added later and I made lots of different versions of different expressions.

“She has a difficult face to sculpt because she has very strong features and the pictures of her were mostly taken when she was very ill with cancer.

“I was very clear that I wanted to capture her looking healthy, kind and strong.”

Initially, Natasha, who lives just outside Gifford with her husband and four children, spotted an open call for artists to create a statue of Elsie, who died aged 51.

She trained with two-time Tiranti prizewinner Valentina Zlatarova and the Netherlands’ premier clay portraiture artist Mooniq Priem.

Natasha, who previously worked as a primary school teacher in Edinburgh, was looking forward to her work going on display.

East Lothian Courier: Natasha Phoenix's sculpture of Elsie Inglis will find a home in Edinburgh next week

She said: “One thing I have definitely achieved is positively raising the profile of Elsie Inglis.

“She also gets to finally be in Surgeons’ Hall – one of the first female surgeons in a place, had she been a man, she would already have been represented.

“People are already going up to Surgeons’ Hall to see her without realising she’s not in yet.

“She’s going to be very popular. She was greatly loved and is still greatly loved by many.”

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East Lothian Courier
Cameron Ritchie

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