Ros Newman obituary

·2 min read

My friend Ros Newman, who has died aged 82, was a sculptor who created human, animal and bird forms – mainly in steel – that were initially for domestic display and later for large public works.

Wearing goggles and leather gloves, and with sparks flying everywhere, she created works that were, in her own words, “conceived to deceive the eye into seeing much more than there is”.

Among her most prominent pieces was her stainless steel Flight of Birds at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, rising from and reflecting the waters of a carp pond and providing an oasis of calm for patients, staff and visitors.

Ros was born in Highgate, north London, to Ensor Holiday, a scientist, and Betty (nee Rothenstein), an artist. Her maternal grandfather, Sir William Rothenstein, and her uncles, Sir John Rothenstein and Michael Rothenstein, were all artists or art historians.

After leaving school at 16, Ros attended Chelsea School of Art in London, working in various disciplines. But it was later, studying at Hammersmith College of Art, that she discovered oxyacetylene welding and developed a technique for creating steel sculptures. “Steel found me and I embraced her with all my passion,” she said.

Ros’s first solo exhibition, in London in 1971, at the Alwin gallery, with whom she would have a long association, was so successful that shortly afterwards she bought a barn at Stibbard, Norfolk, converting it into a home and studio.

In Stibbard, the local Women’s Institute commissioned a village sign to celebrate its golden jubilee in 1976, and Ros created a piece called The Ploughman, a homage to the area’s rural heritage, which featured a real plough steered by a ploughman made of scrap horseshoes, pitchforks and other agricultural tools and machinery.

Later she moved to Norwich, where she taught evening classes and created props for Anglia Television’s Tales of the Unexpected.

Ros’s smaller sculptures used mild steel but she turned to stainless steel for larger public works. Flight of Birds was followed by a similar piece for Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham, sometime home of the BBC’s Springwatch programmes, and her Seagulls adorn St George’s Park in Great Yarmouth.

She exhibited throughout the UK and also in Taiwan, where she lived for four years in the early 1990s. In 2019 she closed her Norwich studio, passing the torch and other equipment to fellow sculptor Rachael Long. Her lifetime’s work was celebrated with an exhibition, Woman of Steel, at the Fairhurst Gallery in Norwich.

Ros was married three times: to Pepe Cavilla and Barry Dawson, from both of whom she was divorced, and to Chris Wade, who died in 2017.

She is survived by her daughter, Delphi, from a relationship in the early 1960s with the musician Del Newman (whose surname she adopted), and a granddaughter, Cece.

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