Hamo Thornycroft belonged to the Thornycroft family of sculptors. His father, Thomas, mother Mary, and grandfather John Francis were all distinguished sculptors. He was born in London. His brother, John Isaac Thornycroft, became a successful naval engineer; their sister, Theresa, was the mother of the poet Siegfried Sassoon; Theresa and sisters Alyce and Helen Thornycroft were artists. Hamo's early training was with his parents and he developed a passionate and precocious attachment to Classical sculpture. He subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, where his primary influence was the painter-sculptor Frederic Leighton. Hamo won the Gold Medal of the Royal Academy in 1876, with the statue Warrior Bearing a Wounded Youth.
He was the leading figure in the movement known as the New Sculpture. His close personal friend, the critic Edmund Gosse, coined the term "The New Sculpture" in 1894 and formulated its early principles from his relationship with Thornycroft. Thornycroft created a series of statues in the ideal genre in the late 1870s and early 1880s that sought to reanimate the format of the classical statue. These included Lot's Wife (1878), Artemis and her Hound (1880 plaster, 1882 marble), the Homeric bowman Teucer (1881 plaster, 1882 bronze), and the Mower (1884 plaster, 1894 bronze), arguably the first life-size freestanding statue of a contemporary laborer in 19th-century sculpture.
Thornycroft was one of the youngest artists to be elected to the Royal Academy, in 1882, the same year the bronze cast of Teucer was purchased for the British nation under the auspices of the Chantrey Bequest. After 1884, Thornycroft's reputation was secure and he received commissions for a number of major monuments, most notably the innovative General Gordon. Thornycroft continued to be a central member of the sculptural establishment and the Royal Academy into the 20th century. He was knighted in 1917. He increasingly became reactionary and resistant to the new developments in sculpture, even though it was his work of the early 1880s that helped catalyze sculpture in the United Kingdom toward developing new directions. In sum, he provided an important transition between the neoclassical and academic styles of the 19th century and its fin-de-siècle and modernist departures.
- Beattie, Susan. The New Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.
- Friedman, Terry, ed. The Alliance of Sculpture and Architecture. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 1993.
- Getsy, David. Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877-1905. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.
- Gosse, Edmund. "Our Living Artists: Hamo Thornycroft, A.R.A." Magazine of Art 4 (1881).
- Manning, Elfrida. Marble and Bronze: The Art and Life of Hamo Thornycroft. London: Trefoil Books, 1982.
- Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.
- White, Adam. Hamo Thornycroft and the Martyr General. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 1991.
- "Lecture to the Sculpture Students of the Royal Academy of Art, 1885" reprinted in the Journal of the Walpole Society, vol. 69 (2007): 211-26.
- Alfred the Great - Winchester
- William Ewart Gladstone in robes of Lord Rector of Glasgow University - Glasgow
- Oliver Cromwell - outside the Palace of Westminster
- General Gordon - Victoria Embankment
- John Bright - Rochdale
- Sir Daniel Dixon - Belfast City Hall
- William Lord Armstrong - Newcastle-on-Tyne
- Cecil Rhodes - Kimberley, South Africa
- A Sower - Kew Gardens
A Sower, in Kew Gardens
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hamo Thornycroft.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Hamo Thornycroft.|
- Thornycroft works in the Tate Collection, London
- The Mower in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
- Biography on Bob Speel's Site
- The Victorian Web, featuring links to images of works
- Archival material relating to Hamo Thornycroft listed at the UK National Archives
- Portraits of Hamo Thornycroft at the National Portrait Gallery, London