Hamo Thornycroft

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Hamo Thornycroft

Hamo Thornycroft.jpg
William Hamo Thornycroft, 1884
by Theodore Blake Wirgman
Born(1850-03-09)9 March 1850
London, England
Died18 December 1925(1925-12-18) (aged 75)
Oxford, England
Known forSculpture

Sir William Hamo Thornycroft RA (9 March 1850 – 18 December 1925) was an English sculptor, responsible for some of London's best-known statues, including the statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Palace of Westminster.[1][2] He was a keen student of classical sculpture and 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.

He was a leading figure in the movement known as the New Sculpture, which provided a transition between the neoclassical styles of the 19th century and later modernist developments.


Early life and education[edit]

Stepping Stones, Kibble Palace, Glasgow

Hamo Thornycroft was born in London into the Thornycroft family of sculptors. Both his parents, Thomas and Mary, were distinguished sculptors. As a young child, Hamo was sent to live with an uncle on a farm in Cheshire until, aged nine, he began studying at the Modern Free Grammar School in Macclesfield, before in 1863 returning to London as a pupil at the University College School.[3] He subsequently, from 1869, studied at the Royal Academy, where his primary influence was the painter-sculptor Frederic Leighton. While a student, Thornycroft assisted his father, Thomas, on the monumental sculptural group Boadicea and Her Daughters, later installed beside Westminster Bridge in London.[3] At the Royal Academy Schools, Hamo Thornycroft won two medals and obtained his first paid commission for a work, a bust of a Dr. Sharpey.[3] In 1871, Thornycroft visited Italy and Paris and assisted his father in creating the Poets' Fountain for Park Lane in London (destroyed in the Second World War), for which he modelled several figures of poets in marble and bronze.[3] During the first half of the 1870s he exhibited works on a regular basis at the Royal Academy, showing Fame, the Sharpey bust, a bust of Mrs Mordaunt and a model for an equestrian statue of Lord Mayo.[3] In 1876 Thornycroft won the Gold Medal of the Royal Academy with the statue Warrior Bearing a Wounded Youth.[4]

Early career[edit]

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.[5] These included Lot's Wife (1878) and Artemis and her Hound (1880 plaster, 1882 marble).[3] In 1880 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy,[4] and produced 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 labourer in 19th-century sculpture.[6] A companion piece to the Mower, the Sower, was exhibited in 1886 at the Royal Academy.[3] When, in 1894, the critic Edmund Gosse coined the term "The New Sculpture", he formulated its early principles from Thornycroft's work.[5]

After 1884, Thornycroft's reputation was secure and he won commissions for a number of major monuments, most notably the innovative General Gordon in Trafalgar Square[3] (since moved to Victoria Embankment Gardens). Other significant works he created included an effigy of Harvey Goodwin, Bishop of Carlisle (1895; Carlisle Cathedral),[7] and the statues of Oliver Cromwell (Westminster), Dean Colet (a bronze group, early Italianate in feeling, outside St Paul's School, formerly in Hammersmith and now in Barnes, London), Alfred the Great (Winchester), the Gladstone Memorial (in the Strand, London) and Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London (bronze, erected in St Paul's Cathedral). Other significant memorials were built in several cities then in the British Empire.[4][8]

Architectural work[edit]

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Council commissioned Thornycroft to produce a detailed sculpted frieze for their headquarters at Chartered Accountants' Hall for a cost of £3,000.[9]

Thornycroft's frieze, carved between 1889 and 1893, includes a series of figures representing Arts, Sciences, Crafts, Education, Commerce, Manufacture, Agriculture, Mining, Railways, Shipping, India, the Colonies, and Building.[10] The figure of the architect is based on the Hall's architect, John Belcher, and the sculptor on Thornycroft himself. The figure of the solicitor is H. Markby of Markby, Stewart & Co., who acted for ICAEW in its early years.[11]

Later works[edit]

Thornycroft continued to be a central member of the sculptural establishment and the Royal Academy into the 20th century. He was awarded the medal of honour at the 1900 Paris Exhibition,[4] and was knighted in 1917.[8] In 1901 he began a series of small bronze statuettes for the home market while continuing to work on large commissions.[3] His single largest work, the monument to Lord Curzon, was unveiled in Kolkata in 1913.[3] Thornycroft exhibited The Kiss, a large ideal pieces he had worked on for three years, at the Royal Academy in 1916, and received a standing ovation from his fellow artists when it was unveiled.[3] He was awarded the first gold medal bestowed by the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1924, although he had previously, in 1908, declined the offer of the presidency of that body.[3] Thornycroft's last major work was the tomb effigy of Bishop Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1925 and subsequently installed in Coventry Cathedral.[3]

He became increasingly resistant to new developments in sculpture, although his work of the early 1880s helped to catalyse sculpture in the United Kingdom towards those 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.

Blue plaque, 2a Melbury Road, London

A blue plaque commemorates Thornycroft at 2b Melbury Road, Kensington,[12] his studio designed by his lifelong friend the architect John Belcher, c. 1892.[13][14]


In addition to his parents, Thornycroft's grandfather John Francis was also a distinguished sculptor. His brother, Sir 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.

In 1884, Hamo married Agatha Cox, who was fourteen years his junior. At a dinner in 1889, Agatha was introduced to Thomas Hardy, who later described her as "the most beautiful woman in England" and admitted that she was one of the models for the title character in his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles.[15] Agatha and her husband were interested in the concept of "artistic dress", and a dress worn by her (presumed to be her wedding dress) is held in the costume collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, donated by their daughter, Mary Elfrida Thornycroft, who was also his biographer.[3][16]

Selected public works[edit]

1878 to 1889[edit]

Image Title / subject Location and
Date Type Material Dimensions Designation Wikidata Notes
Lot's Wife by William Hamo Thornycroft.JPG
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Lot's Wife Victoria & Albert Museum, London 1878 Statue Marble Previously located in Leighton House.[4][17]
"Stepping Stones" - sculpture in Kibble Palace - geograph.org.uk - 610593.jpg Stepping Stones Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens 1878 Sculpture Marble
Statue of Charles Turner and son, Liverpool.jpg Charles Turner (MP) & Charles William Turner Turner Home, Liverpool 1885 Sculpture group on pedestal Marble Grade II [3][18]
Bust of Coleridge, Westminster Abbey.jpg Samuel Taylor Coleridge Westminster Abbey, London 1885 Bust Marble [19]
Thornycroft - A sower 40895.JPG
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A Sower Kew Gardens, London 1886 Statue on pedestal Bronze and Portland stone Grade II Q27082922 [20]
General Charles George Gordon statue, Embankment, London (2).JPG
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General Gordon Victoria Embankment Gardens, London 1887–88 Statue on pedestal with plaques Bronze and Portland stone 3.1m (statue only) Grade II Q26319159 Relocated from Trafalgar Square[21][22][23][24]

1890 to 1899[edit]

Image Title / subject Location and
Date Type Material Dimensions Designation Wikidata Notes
John Bright Memorial - geograph.org.uk - 1702403.jpg John Bright Broadfield Park, Rochdale 1891 Statue on pedestal Bronze and stone Grade II Q26651280 [21][25]
Queen Victoria Royal Exchange, London 1891-6 Statue Marble Relocated to Victoria Barracks, Windsor in 1996.[26]
DSCN8460 Dumbarton Peter Denny Statue.jpg
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Peter Denny Dumbarton, Scotland Statue 1898, erected 1902 Statue on pedestal Bronze and granite Category B Q17848328 [27]
Oliver Cromwell statue, Westminster - DSC08116.JPG
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Statue of Oliver Cromwell Outside of the Palace of Westminster, London 1899 Statue on pedestal with supporting figure Bronze and Portland stone Grade II Q3497572 [21][22][28]

1900 to 1909[edit]

Image Title / subject Location and
Date Type Material Dimensions Designation Wikidata Notes
Statue d'Alfred le Grand à Winchester.jpg
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Alfred the Great High Street, Winchester 1901 Statue on pedestal and base Bronze and granite Grade II Q26461216 [21][29][30]
Dublin William Conyngham Statue 03.JPG
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William Plunket Kildare Street, Dublin 1901 Statue on pedestal Bronze and stone [31]
EB1911 Plate IV. v24, pg.505, Fig 9.jpg
More images
Dean John Colet and Two Pupils St Paul's School, London 1902 Sculpture group on pedestal with canopy Bronze and stone Originally installed at the school's previous site in Hammersmith, relocated in 1968.[3][22]
Statue Of William Ewart Gladstone.jpg
More images
William Ewart Gladstone George Square, Glasgow 1902 Statue on pedestal with plaque Bronze and granite Category B Q17792886 [3][32]
Detail of the statue of Gladstone, Strand, London.jpg
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Memorial to William Ewart Gladstone The Strand, London 1905 Statue on pedestal with supporting figures Bronze and Portland stone 11m tall Grade II Q27081590 [21][22][33]
Mandell Creighton memorial, St Paul's Cathedral 03.jpg
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Mandell Creighton St Paul's Cathedral, London 1905 Statue on pedestal Bronze & green marble [34]
Monument Armstrong Newcastle Tyne 5.jpg
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William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong Barras Bridge, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1905–6 Statue with screen wall, steps and relief panels Bronze and stone Grade II Q26586754 [35][21]
Statue of princess - Mohatta Palace.jpg Statue of Queen Victoria Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi, Pakistan 1906 Statue on pedestal with supporting figures Marble & bronze Q76544412 Originally erected at Frere Hall on a tall pedestal with bronze figures representing India, Justice & Peace and two lioness, all of which were badly damaged in 1947[36][37]
Cecil John Rhodes 004.jpg
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Cecil Rhodes Kimberley, South Africa 1907 Equestrian statue on pedestal and steps Bronze and stone Q20972960 [3][38]
Boer War Memorial - geograph.org.uk - 2397709.jpg
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Boer War Memorial St Ann's Square, Manchester 1908 Sculpture group on pedestal with plaques Bronze, granite and marble Grade II Q26546131 [39][40]
Statue of Alfred Tennyson at Trinity College, Cambridge.jpg Alfred Lord Tennyson Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge 1909 Seated statue on pedestal Stone [3][41]

1910 to 1925[edit]

Image Title / subject Location and
Date Type Material Dimensions Designation Wikidata Notes
Belfast City Hall Sculpture of Sir Daniel Dixon II 2018 08 24.jpg
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Sir Daniel Dixon, 1st Baronet Belfast City Hall 1910 Statue on pedestal with plaques Bronze and stone Q72151439 [3][42]
Hamo Thornycroft (1850–1925) – The Kiss (1916), mother's front left above knees, Tate Britain, June 2012.png
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The Kiss Tate Britain, London 1916 Sculpture group on base Marble 1.7m high [43]
Charles Tempest-Hicks MC plaque St Mary Monken Hadley.jpg
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CEH Tempest-Hicks St Mary the Virgin, Monken Hadley c. 1922 Memorial tablet Marble Q106783020 [3][44]
Statue of Haron Baronian Library garden, Knutsford Unveiled 1922 Statue on pedestal Bronze and stone Statue relocated twice, since 2018 part of the Great War Centenary memorial in Knutsford.[45][46][47][48]
GOC Leagrave to Harpenden 058 Luton War Memorial statue (8565085452).jpg
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War memorial George Street, Luton 1922 Statue on cenotaph Bronze and Portland stone Approx. 19m tall Grade II Q26408428 Architect, Sir Reginald Blomfield[49][50]
Bishop Huyshe Wolcott Yeatman-Biggs half.jpg
More images
Bishop Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs Coventry Cathedral 1925 Chest tomb and effigy Bronze and stone [21]

Other works[edit]




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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]