William John Coffee (1774–1846) was an internationally renowned English artist and sculptor who worked in porcelain, plaster, and terra cotta. He also worked in oil paint, although this was not the medium for which he became famous. His early career was as a modeller for Duesbury at the china factory on Nottingham Road in Derby, England. The latter part of his life was spent in America.
Stone-cast bust of Erasmus Darwin, made by Coffee c 1795
One of his paintings
Coffee worked for William Duesbury in Derby, but he also worked at Pinxton Porcelain and potteries at Frier Gate in Derby and at the village of Church Gresley. During his time in Derby, Coffee made busts of some of the local dignitaries and historic figures including a life size bust of Erasmus Darwin. This bust is a fine example of Coffee's modelling skills and is now on display at Derby Museum.
Coffee also produced a terra cotta copy of the Florentine Boar (1806) and a number of terra cotta statues of Greek figures representing medicine and healing for the garden of Joseph Strutt. The boar was destroyed duiring World War II but has been recently replaced. Joseph Strutt's garden was given to the town as Derby Arboretum in 1840 complete with statues, but those of the Greek figures are now missing or lost. Coffee also made a 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) terra cotta statue of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, for William Strutt's Derbyshire Infirmary which was mounted above a dome at the very pinacle of the newly designed hospital.