Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web Inventor, Receives Own Statue for 60th Birthday

Sean Henry with the statue of Tim Berners-Lee. Photo: Press Association.

Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989, is the latest recipient of a painted bronze statue of himself. Created by the Hampshire-based sculptor Sean Henry, it depicts a two-thirds life-size Berners-Lee carrying a leather computer bag. It was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in London for the computer scientist’s 60th birthday.

Henry spent two days with Berners-Lee in Boston, and Berners-Lee subsequently traveled to London for two sittings in the artist’s studio. Henry was selected by Berners-Lee and his wife, who wanted to move past the traditional depictions of the inventor seated behind a computer.

Berners-Lee joins other recently commissioned works, such as Vivienne Westwood, photographed by Juergen Teller, an injet on canvas work by Julian Opie of the inventor James Dyson, and a gelatin silver print of civil liberties advocate Shami Chakrabarti by Gillian Wearing. Although Henry’s sculpture of Berners-Lee is not the most flattering commissioned portrait we’ve seen, it is certainly better than “Scary Lucy,” the last bronze statue to receive international attention (see “Scary Lucy” Sculptor Dave Poulin Apologizes for Demonic Lucille Ball Bronze).

Sir Tim Berners-Lee by Sean Henry, painted bronze, 2015.© National Portrait Gallery, London.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee by Sean Henry, painted bronze, 2015.
© National Portrait Gallery, London.

“Henry was interested in the paradox inherent in the impact of Berners-Lee’s invention and his self-effacing demeanor,” associate curator Rosie Broadley stated in a press release. “Henry’s sculpted figures are usually anonymous, and in this portrait he has retained the idea of his subject as “everyman,” through the casual pose and clothing.”

Berners-Lee seems pleased with the work, and hopes it will start conversations about the future of his invention. “The Web connects people, not just computers,” he stated in the release. “It belongs to all of us and its future will be shaped by the energy and creativity of all who use it. So, I hope that this sculpture will start conversations—our work is not done. What kind of Web do we want, and how best can we build that together?”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee by Sean Henry is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London beginning on May 29, 2015. 

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