|Died||18 December 1949 (aged 87)|
|Alma mater||South Kensington Schools|
Toft's career was dominated by public commemorative commissions in bronze, mostly single statues of military or royal figures. The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, Boer War to 1902, and then World War I to 1918, provided plentiful commissions. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes Toft as one of the major figures of the "New Sculpture" following on from William Hamo Thornycroft and George Frampton. Toft described his work as 'Idealist' but he also said of himself that "to become an idealist you must necessarily first be a realist."
His father was a notable modeller in ceramics, and his brother was the landscape artist Joseph Alfonso Toft.
Life and career
Toft was born in Handsworth, then in Staffordshire, and now a suburb of Birmingham. His parents were Charles Toft (1832–1909) and Rosanna Reeves. His father was a senior modeller at Mintons, and then the chief modeller at Wedgwood pottery. He had also taught modelling at Birmingham School of Art for some years to 1873.
Toft trained at Wedgwood, and attended art schools in Hanley and Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1881 he won a scholarship to study sculpture at the South Kensington Schools under Professor Édouard Lantéri. He received silver medals in his second and third years.
From 1885 onwards Toft exhibited at the Royal Academy and some of his most notable works exhibited at the Royal Academy included Fate-Led (1890, now at Walker Art Gallery), The Sere and Yellow Leaf (1892), Spring (1897, now at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery), The Spirit of Contemplation (1901; Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle) and The Metal Pourer (1915). In 1915 his sculpture The Bather was purchased using the Royal Academy's Chantrey Fund. His 1888 bust of Gladstone for the National Liberal Club was modelled from life and acclaimed as one of the best. In 1900 Toft received a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.
He created monuments to Queen Victoria for Leamington Spa, Nottingham, and South Shields, and to Edward VII in Birmingham and Warwick. He designed the coronation medal of George V and Queen Mary (1911) and a statuette of W. S. Penley playing Charley's Aunt for Royal Doulton (1913). He also published a book, Modelling and Sculpture in 1911, which was reprinted in 1949.
He made a series of war memorials, starting with the South African War Memorial in Cardiff (1910), and then many after the First World War, including the Royal Fusiliers War Memorial in London (1922), and four statues for the Birmingham Hall of Memory (1923–24).
He died in Worthing.
|Thornton Cleveleys War Memorial||Thornton Cleveleys Lancashire||A granite pedestal is surmounted by a bronze depiction of a soldier by Toft, this Thornton Cleveleys' monument to remember the dead of two World Wars. Unveiling took place on 11 November 1923, this performed by Colonel Sir Hugh Jeudwine.|
|Chadderton War Memorial||Chadderton Greater Manchester||Another Toft depiction of a soldier cast in bronze stands on a pedestal outside the Chadderton Town Hall. The inscription reads
Here the soldier is helmeted and standing at ease.
|City and Midland Bank War Memorial||Canary Wharf Greater London||This memorial is located in a protected walkway near the east entrance at Upper Bank St. It had previously been located in Leadenhall Street in the City of London. Inscription reads
This is a marble memorial with a triangular pediment with lists of names on a total fourteen panels below it. Bronze figures of St George are on the right and the Recording Angel on the left, these by Toft. 717 names are listed of men who perished in the First World War.
|Midland Bank Staff Memorial World War 2||Canary Wharf Greater London||Originally located in Poultry in the City of London this memorial tablet is inscribed
It is dedicated to the 478 employees of the Midland Bank who lost their lives in the Second World War. Toft carved the wreaths in relief which feature on the memorial.
|Benenden War Memorial||Benenden Kent||A variation of his usual theme of a standing soldier, here Toft has sculpted an allegory of Victory with the inscription
Toft's bronze composition stands on a stone pedestal. The unveiling took place on 27 February 1923.
|"SUFFOLK SOLDIERS" Memorial||Ipswich Suffolk||This Boer War memorial is located in Christchurch Park in Ipswich. The memorial is inscribed
The memorial comprises a stone base which supports a pedestal on which Toft has sculpted a bronze depiction of a bare-headed soldier. There are plaques on each side of the base these listing the names of the 281 Suffolk men remembered.
|Cannon Hill Park Boer War Memorial||Cannon Hill Park Birmingham West Midlands||This memorial is inscribed
It comprises a red granite base surmounted by a tapering pedestal on which are sited Toft's sculptures of a woman, a gun carriage and two soldiers. On the front face is a panel bearing a bronze relief and the other three faces have the names of those remembered listed on plaques. The woman represents "Peace" and her left arm supports a shield bearing the City Arms and an olive branch. There was a wreath in her right hand but this is missing. The relief panel shows two classical female figures which represent "Grief" and "Sympathy". They both hold wreaths. The names of 521 Birmingham men who die in the Second Boer War are listed. The unveiling ceremony took place on 23 June 1906 and the unveiling was performed by Gen Sir Ian Hamilton.
|Leamington Spa War Memorial||Leamington Warwickshire||The Leamington Spa War Memorial is located in gardens in Euston Place. It features a Toft sculpture of a soldier standing bare-headed with his rifle reversed. On the ground behind him is a steel helmet and gas mask. The memorial remembers the dead of the First and Second World War as well as those lost in the Malayan, Korean, and Northern Ireland conflicts. Toft's bronze stands on a Cornish granite pedestal. The names of the dead are inscribed on all four sides of the pedestal. 570 Leamington Spa men were lost in the First World War and 188 in the Second. The unveiling ceremony took place on 27 May 1922 and was performed by Lt.Gen Sir A Hunter Weston. A ceremony to unveil the additional names lost in the Second World War was held in November 1951.|
|South African War Memorial||Cardiff||This memorial stands in Cathays Park on King Edward VII Avenue in Cardiff, described as "undoubtedly the finest and most original work of sculpture" there. It is inscribed
The memorial consists of a Portland stone pedestal on a granite base and on one side of the pedestal is a bronze by Toft which features a seated male figure representing "War and Courage". The figure holds a sword and leans against a shield. A seated female figure on the other side represents "Grief" and she holds a wreath and also leans on a shield. These two figures are surmounted by a winged figure representing "Peace". This figure holds an olive branch and stands on an orb. The 817 men remembered died in the Second Boer War of 1899 to 1902. The unveiling took place on 20 November 1909 and the unveiling was performed by General Sir J D P French who was to become the Earl of Ypres. Image shows the figure representing "Peace" and the study "War and Courage". See photo of "War and Courage" in Gallery below.
|Memorial to the Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment||Holborn Greater London||This memorial carries the inscription
A bronze study of a soldier by Toft stands atop a Portland stone pedestal. The soldier wears a helmet and holds his rifle. The unveiling ceremony took place on 4 November 1922 and was performed by the then Lord Mayor of London. Toft's figure here is identical to that on the 41st Division memorial at Flers in France.
|Oldham War Memorial||Oldham Lancashire||The Oldham memorial stands in the grounds of St Mary's Church in Church Street which is opposite Oldham Town Hall. The inscription reads
Toft has sculpted a group of soldiers in the trenches, this cast in bronze. They stand on a square pedestal on a polished granite base and the names of the dead are on plaques on the churchwall. The total of men remembered is 2,688 from the First World War and a further 200 from the Second World War. The unveiling took place on 28 April 1923 and was performed by Gen Sir Ian Hamilton.
|Birmingham Hall of Memory||Birmingham West Midlands||This elaborate memorial stands in Centenary Square in the centre of Birmingham. The memorial consists of a central octagonal building with a domed roof. It is built of Portland stone and is on a plinth of Cornish granite. On the outside are four bronze figures by Toft each mounted on pedestals and representing the Services. Inside the central building or hall are three relief panels by William Bloye these showing war scenes and several books of remembrance contained within a glass dome. One of the four figures by Toft represents the Navy and Toft has sculpted a bare-chested sailor in a crouching position and holding a coil of rope in one hand and a ship's wheel in the other. Another bare-chested figure is of a soldier, representing the Army. He is also in a crouching position and rests his tin helmet on his left leg and his right hand rests of the barrel of a machine gun. The Air Force figure, again bare-chested and crouching, holds a blade and aerlions of an aircraft in his left hand. The fourth and final figure represents the Nursing Service and here a woman crouches down whilst holding a wreath in her left hand. In the interior, panel one depicts a wife saying goodbye to her husband as he joins others marching off to war. Another shows soldiers fighting in the trenches as wounded comrades slump out of the line of fire. In the third panel we see wounded soldiers returning home; the aftermath of war. The inscriptions on the interior panels read-
The memorial was opened by HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught KG on 12 June 1923. Further images are shown in the gallery these of Toft's four figures.
|Streatham War Memorial||Streatham Greater London||This war memorial is located in a garden by Streatham Common on Streatham High Road and features a Toft sculpture of a standing soldier with rifle reversed. It remembers those men of Streatham who perished in the First and Second World Wars. Toft's bronze sculpture stands on a stone pedestal. The unveiling took place on 14 October 1922.|
|Stone War Memorial||Stone Staffordshire||Memorial stands in Granville Square in Stone. It comprises a pedestal surmounted with Toft's bronze sculpture of a soldier. It remembers those Stone men who died in both World Wars. The soldier is bare-headed and holds a reversed Lee–Enfield rifle along with belt, haversack and water bottle. His steel helmet lies at his feet. Bronze plaques are sited on each side of the pedestal. Those plaques remembering the losses of the Second World War have Staffordshire Knots at the base. The unveiling ceremony took place on 10 January 1921 and the unveiling was carried out by the Earl of Dartmouth.|
|Sandon Estate War Memorial||Sandon Staffordshire||This memorial dedicated to the men of the Sandon Estate killed in the 1914-18 war is unusual in that it records where the 23 men involved died. We see therefore how the men of Sandon served in various theatres of the war- The High Seas/France/Flanders/Gallipoli, Salonica, Mesopotamia, South Russia/ Egypt/Palestine/Italy/East Africa and India. In the gallery below is a photograph of the plaque which gives this information. The memorial comprises a stone pedestal on which stands Toft's bronze sculpture of a soldier. The memorial was unveiled in May 1921, the ceremony being carried out by Colonel John Ward.|
|Statue of Charles Mark Palmer||Jarrow, Tyneside||Erected in 1903 this monument consists of a bronze statue of Palmer atop a Portland stone pedestal with bronze panels. Palmer was a shipbuilder, colliery owner and iron master who served as the first mayor and MP of Jarrow.|
|Bust of Philip James Bailey||Nottingham Nottinghamshire||Toft created this bronze bust and panel which stands on a pedestal within the grounds of Nottingham Castle.|
|Memorial to Mr. Jonathan White||Nottingham Nottinghamshire||This bust was sculpted by Toft in 1891 and also stands in the Nottingham Castle grounds.|
|The Bather||Victoria and Albert Museum London||This 1915 work is held in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London to whom it was lent by the Tate Gallery.|
|Study of the actress Ellaline Terriss||Held in a private collection||This bronze by Toft dates to 1901.|
|The Spirit of Contemplation||Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne||This work dates to 1906. See photograph in gallery below.|
|Children of the Sculptor||Held in a private collection||This study by Toft of three of his children was executed in 1904.|
|Frank Brangwyn||Cardiff||This study by Toft is held in the Amgueddfa Cymru Caerdydd National Museum of Wales, Cardiff Accession number: NMW A 2988.|
|Maternity||Held in a private collection||This is one of Toft's works said to show the influence of the Lantéri-Dalou tradition|
|The King Edward VII Memorial||Birmingham||This statue by Toft is located in Centenary Square, Birmingham, England. It is made of Carrara marble and was unveiled in 1913.|
|Statue of Queen Victoria||Nottingham Nottinghamshire||This statue dates to 1905. Toft also created sculptures of Queen Victoria for Leamington Spa and South Shields.|
|Fate-led||Liverpool Merseyside||This work by Toft is held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.|
|Statue of Henry Richard||Tregaron||This statue by Toft was unveiled on 18 August 1893. It is located in Tregaron Square, Tregaron.|
|Memorial to Charles Swinnerton Heap||Walsall||This panel by Toft was unveiled in 1901. It was moved to Walsall Town Hall in 1905.|
Queen Victoria, South Shields
Queen Victoria, Nottingham Memorial Park
Bust of Sir Frank Brangwyn
King Edward VII Memorial in Birmingham, after restoration
- "Albert Toft". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
- Albert Toft Archived 15 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
- 'Charles Toft', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 accessed 10 Nov 2018
- Remembrance and British war memorials Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Sourced 1 September 2007
- Toft's biography at the Henry Moore Institute website
- Thornton Cleveleys War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Chadderton War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- HSBC Headquarters War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 13 November 2012
- Midland Bank Staff Memorial World War 2 UKNIWM. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Benenden War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 13 November 2012
- "SUFFOLK SOLDIERS" Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Cannon Hill Park Boer War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Leamington Spa War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Newman, John (1995). The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan. Penguin Group. p. 107. ISBN 0-14-071056-6.
- "For Remembrance and in Honour of Those Who Lost Their Lives in the South African War 1899-1902" by James Gildea. Published 1911. See page 251.
- Welsh National South African War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- to the Royal Fusiliers City of London Regiment UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- "London's Open Air Statuary" by Gleichen published in 1928. See Pages 134/5.
- Oldham War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- BIRMINGHAM HALL OF MEMORY UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- "At the going down of the sun: British First World War Memorials" by Derek Boorman. Published in 1988. See Pages 131/2,
- Streatham War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Stone War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
- Sandon Estate War Memorial UKNIWM. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Nottingham Castle English Heritage. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- The Bather Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Ellaline Terriss Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- The Spirit of Contemplation Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Children of the Sculptor Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Frank Brangwyn Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Maternity Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- The King Edward VII Memorial Archived 7 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine The Victorian Society. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Statue of Queen Victoria British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Fate-led Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Modelling And Sculpture by Albert Toft, Seeley, Service & Co. Limited London, 1949—A Full Account of the Various Methods and Processes Employed in These Arts
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