A sculpture masterpiece is created in a matter of hours

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Her busts of the Queen and Prince Philip stand in Buckingham Palace and her giant statue of the footballer Billy Bremner, outside the gates of Elland Road in Leeds, is more majestic still.

But Frances Segelman’s latest project was altogether more personal.

Leeds sculptor Frances Segelman with Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh.

Leeds sculptor Frances Segelman with Holocaust survivor Arek Hersh.

In the space of two hours and before an audience of 200, she had created a bust of Arek Hersh, an 88 year-old survivor of the Holocaust, who lost his family to the Nazis.

The event in Leeds yesterday, which she called a “live sculpt”, was the latest of a series in which she tries to capture in clay a single moment in time.

“It’s like a photograph,” said Ms Segelman, who was born in north Leeds and is married to the millionaire philanthropist Sir Jack Petchey.

“I don’t think there’s anyone else who does it in two hours.

“I won’t do it without an audience. The more people I have, the quicker I am. I have been known to do it in an hour and a half.

“I go into a kind of tunnel vision and I have to think positive thoughts all the way through. I cannot allow one negative thought to go 
into my head.”

Ms Segelman, whose previous subjects have included Boris Johnson, Bruce Forsyth, Joanna Lumley and Sir Steve Redgrave, said it was a “privilege” to be asked to sculpt Mr Hersh by the Makor cultural charity. The finished bust will be donated to the National Holocaust Museum.

“I’ve been very, very moved by his story,” said Ms Segelman, whose own ancestors were from eastern Europe. “There are no words to explain it.

“And to be able to sculpt someone and capture them after they’ve been through something like that and before they pass away, is sensational.”

Mr Hersh did not speak of his experiences until 1995 when he wrote a book, A Detail of History.

The sitting, at the charity’s offices in Leeds, began with a 30-minute private meeting and then a public measuring of Mr Hersh’s head with 

“When I do these very fast pieces, I find that the character comes out in the sculpture and it’s often some of my best work,” said Ms Segelman.

“The quick ones are like photographs, capturing the moment, and it’s really 

Heartbreak of the Holocaust

Arek Hersh was born in Poland, the son of a boot-maker for the army.

When the Nazis invaded, his family was forced to trek 40 miles to another town, from where he was later taken, at age 11, to a work camp. Eventually he was sent to an SS camp. After 18 months, only 11 of the original 2,500 inhabitants were left alive. Mr Hersh managed to survive by stealing food.

Later he was sent to Auschwitz and then to the Buchenwald camp, where he was among 600 survivors liberated by the Russian army. He never saw his family again.