Michael Pennie

 Honorary profile 

Michael Pennie, who taught at the Bath Academy of Art (now Bath School of Art and Design) from 1962 to 2001, and who has been Emeritus Professor of Sculpture and Artist in Residence at Corsham Court since 2001, passed away recently after a brief illness.

Professor Anita Taylor, previous Executive Dean of the Bath School of Art and Design, and John Strachan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise, have written the following personal tributes.

‘I am the most remarkably fortunate man to be here at Corsham Court, at the place where my sculptor’s life began more than half a century ago’.

- Michael Pennie

A career of boundless energy and creativity

“Michael Pennie joined Bath Academy of Art in 1962 as a visiting lecturer and stayed on to enjoy a very rewarding teaching career in parallel with his artistic practice. In 1996 he became Professor of Sculpture at the then newly-instated Bath University College. In 2001 Michael retired from teaching to become a full-time artist, and retained his connection with the University as an Emeritus Professor and, significantly, as Artist in Residence at the Corsham Court campus of Bath Spa University. Here, Michael worked on a daily basis in his studio, a constant creative presence.

Michael trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art and went on to exhibit widely: notably at Tate Britain, Hayward Gallery, Serpentine Galleries, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Henry Moore Institute, and with Flowers Gallery. In 1980 Michael was commissioned to create Early Morning Pipe for the Forma Viva outdoor sculpture collection in Slovenia. He played a pivotal role as curator and artist in Sculpture in the City of Bath in 1986.

In the last few years, Michael’s energy seemed almost boundless. Over six months in 2015, his exhibition, Adventures in Wiltshire: Sculpture For Furniture, presented recent sculpture, print and drawings in nine venues; in May 2017, Drawings of Different Sizes, was presented at Drawing Projects UK in parallel with Six Decades, Six Sculptures at Victoria Art Gallery in Bath and the curator, Fiona Cassidy, produced two video biographies, Michael Pennie Drawings and Michael Pennie Sculptures; and just last year, in 2018, a two-person show, Where are we now? Sculpture by Michael Pennie and Andrew Sabin, was held at Canary Wharf in London.

Michael wrote about his life in Michael Pennie Sculpture: Making and Teaching. Or how I became such a peculiar person and, last summer at Sion Hill, we were privileged to preview the film When Chances Present Themselves, a documentary centred on Michael’s friendships with former students and fellow teachers from Bath Academy of Art and Design, again featuring Michael and Fiona Cassidy in conversation, a moving and fitting testament and celebration of his influence and impact.

As an inspiring artist, author, colleague, mentor and friend, Michael will be sorely missed by all of us, the community of Bath School of Art and Design and Bath Spa University, and by countless others. It will seem a very strange place indeed without Michael’s amazing creative force, fortitude, wit, generosity and passion.

Our sincere condolences go to Marlene, family and friends, at this very sad time.” 

Professor Anita Taylor
Executive Dean, Bath School of Art and Design

An artist of inspiration

“Michael was a dear friend, colleague and artistic collaborator. He was an inspirational artist and a warm and generous person. His presence will be greatly missed at the University, particularly at Corsham Court, where he has been Artist in Residence since his official retirement from teaching in 2001. But Michael never really retired; creativity was his essence and he never stopped working, as a distinguished sculptor and maker of art in a number of media, and latterly as a novelist and filmmaker.

Since the early 1960s, Corsham Court has been Michael’s artistic home. He wrote recently that ‘I am the most remarkably fortunate man to be here at Corsham Court, at the place where my sculptor’s life began more than half a century ago’.

Corsham Court will not feel the same without him."

Professor John Strachan
Director of Corsham Court Campus and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Dean of Graduate College

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