Barnsley sculptor has work celebrated in exhibition

Graham Ibbeson with a fibre-glass replica of Webb Ellis in his studio
Graham Ibbeson with a fibre-glass replica of Webb Ellis in his studio
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A South Yorkshire sculptor who created a statue of the inventor of rugby is having his work celebrated in an exhibition to coincide with the 2015 rugby World Cup.

Graham Ibbeson, from Barnsley, was commissioned in 1996 to create a bronze statue of William Webb Ellis, who is credited with inventing the game of rugby while he was a pupil at Rugby School Warwickshire, in 1823.

The 8ft masterpiece was unveiled outside Rugby School in 1997.

Mr Ibbeson based the statue on his own son, Max, who was 13 at the time, with the only portrait of Webb Ellis in existence being of him in old age.

He was asked to produce a 4ft replica of the statue by car giant Peugeot, which was unveiled in Menton, France, near to where Webb Ellis is buried, to herald the start of the rugby World Cup tournament in France in 2007.

Now, to mark the start of this year’s World Cup, there is an exhibition running at Rugby Museum and Art Gallery, Rugby, celebrating the making of the statue in Barnsley.

The rugby tournament starts on Friday, September 18 in Twickenham and the 20 participating countries compete for The William Webb Ellis Trophy.

An exhibition of all Mr Ibbeson’s sculptures also opens at the Lavery Room, South Kensington, London, on October 6.

It is titled ‘The Art of Comedy’ and will show examples of some of his commissioned work including life-size versions of Laurel and Hardy and comedian Les Dawson, plus studies for commissions and also his humorous gallery work.

His sculptures can be found around the country in towns and cities including Leeds, Cardiff, Middlesdbrough, Perth and Otley.

One of his most famous statues, of Eric Morecambe, was unveiled in the seaside resort of Morecambe by the Queen.