The two images chosen this week show one of Dooley’s most famous sculptures, “Four Lads Who Shook the World”, which is on Matthew Street. The first image shows the original sculpture as it was installed in 1974, and the second shows the sculpture as it is today, altered after John Lennon’s death. In the original sculpture, the Madonna (representing Liverpool as the mother city of the Beatles) is holding three babies (representing John, George and Ringo), with a fourth baby representing Paul McCartney, who Dooley states, ‘…has been given wings of a cherub for obvious reasons’. In the later sculpture the winged Paul McCartney cherub has been removed and another baby added to one side to represent John Lennon, with the words ‘Lennon Lives’ and lines from ‘Imagine’.
The Arthur Dooley Archive was set up by the Liverpool Academy of the Arts in order to publicise and gain recognition for the life and work of Arthur Dooley, the Liverpool Sculptor. The cataloguing of the archive was made possible through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The archive was transferred to LJMU in 2009 to enable long term security and access.
Arthur Dooley was born in Liverpool in 1929, and after working for a time as an apprentice at Cammel Laird’s shipyard, he joined the Irish Guards. His time in the army was crucial to his development as an artist, and it was at this time that he became a devout Catholic and also embraced communism. It was while in military prison that Dooley is said to have begun to make sculptures.
When he left the army in 1953 he continued to study art, first attending classes at Toynbee Hall in London, and then observing students and making work from discarded materials at St Martins College, where he worked as a cleaner. He was eventually given a one-man show by St Martins in 1961. By the early 1960s art critics were hailing Dooley as ‘a kind of sculptural Brendan Behan’, and his straight talking seemed to strike a chord with those seeking to challenge the establishment. He returned home to Liverpool and worked in several studios making large-scale works including The Stations of the Cross for St Mary’s church in Leyland (1965).
He appeared regularly on television, sometimes talking about sculpture, but also defending the rights of ordinary working class people in his native city. All this helped to make him something of a celebrity and his work was collected by the rich and famous, including Cliff Mitchelmore and Danny La Rue. He was even the subject of ITV’s This is Your Life in 1970. During the 1970s he tried to develop a studio and art school in a converted pub in Woolton, and continued to exhibit across Britain and work on a number of commissions, including The Speakers Platform at the Pier Head (1973). Politics remained central to his work, and he campaigned for the redevelopment of the South Docks, the abolition of high-rise housing and for more help for the long-term unemployed. In 1974 he produced one of his most famous works, the Beatles memorial Four Lads Who Shook the World on Mathew Street.
In the 1980s Dooley founded a workshop for the unemployed in Kirkby, helped to found the Liverpool Academy of Arts, and created his final studio at 36 Seel Street. By this time, however, his work was becoming less fashionable and ill-health and financial problems began to make their mark. He died suddenly in 1994, but left an undoubted mark on Liverpool and has never been forgotten by those who knew him.
For more information about the archive, or to request access to the collection, please see the LJMU webpage or contact the LJMU Archivist. More information and digitised material can be found at The Arthur Dooley Archive website.