Belgrade Theatre Mural by James C Brown
Jim Brown, also known as James C. Brown, was born in Paris in 1917. He designed the Belgrade mural panel on the Corporation Street frontage of the Belgrade Theatre in 1958.
The description below is taken from the Public Monuments & Sculptures Association’s website
“Sculptured concrete panel over the main entrance to the Belgrade Theatre symbolising the city of Belgrade and is based on a 1684 engraving by Giacomo de Rossi. The relief shows a fortress on a hill above a walled city, surrounded by the river Danube. The city arms and its name in Cyrillic script on a banner are at the top of the relief. The dark colour of the textured panel provides a visual interruption from the smoothness of the surrounding windows.”
James Brown was asked by the City Architect to design and make the relief. The Yugoslav Embassy was consulted about the project, and they supplied the Giacomo de Rossi engraving upon which Brown based his design. Brown first made the relief in brick clay and then had it cast in cement fondu with Penmaenware granite chippings for aggregate.
Giacomo de Rossi (1627-1691) was an Italian engraver and printer. He worked in Rome, the heir to an important printing business founded by his father, Giuseppe de Rossi (1570-1639). It is interesting to know that company is still operating today as Calcografia Nazionale in Rome.
The theatre was named after the Yugoslav city as a gesture of friendship between the two cities and in recognition of a gift of timber to furnish the interior of the building.
Jim was a member of staff in the Architects Department and is still remembered by staff who worked there in the post-war years. One of his designs was the elegant Horse-sided bench, several of which currently grace the open space in Little Park Street. They were originally designed for Belgrade Square in the 1960s, commissioned by the Belgrade Theatre Club and their Friends in memory of their director Brian Bailey.
Former Coventry City Council Conservation Officer Architect Alan Wright said – “Jim Brown my predecessor at the City Architect’s Department designed them. I remember Jim handing on the design to a metal caster to replicate. Jim I understand passed away a while ago.”
Jim also designed figures appropriate for Coventry Fish Market, Victoria Buildings, Market Way. He intended to make them look like Staffordshire China figures and created Mermaids, Sailors and Neptunes. They were first installed in November 1958 and January 1959. Some of the original iron columns were retained when the Victoria Building was converted to a fish market. Each of the five columns had four figures around them; two mermaids, a dancing sailor and a Nepture, all gaily painted. They were cast in a stone mix called Titanite, each one stands 75cm approx. The arms were cast separately and attached with dowels.
The figures were mounted around the iron pillars in the old fish market.
When the old fish market was demolished, ten of the figures were moved into the new round market and put on kitchen doors and fixed around the fish stalls. Some had lost arms, tridents and pearls but the best were cleaned up and the paint touched up.
Another work of his was the Children, Cat and Elephant brick sculpture at Corley Residential School in 1959. It was inspired by elements from the Coventry City Coat of Arms and was created in relief on a wall along the school driveway.
Jim was involved with many council projects, including the Fish pool and Trout fountain in Palace Yard.