William Brodie (sculptor)

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Robert Bryson by William Brodie, 1878
"Hercules", a bronze statue by William Brodie, in Portmeirion
"The Genius Of Architecture Rewarding At Once The Science And The Practice Of The Art" by William Brodie in Edinburgh
The John Spier memorial, designed by F T Pilkington and sculpted by William Brodie, now at Beith Auld Kirk. It had been in Spier's school.
Figures by Brodie representing 'The Nobility' on the Prince Albert Memorial, Edinburgh
John Graham-Gilbert by William Brodie, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Buchanan Memorial, Dean Cemetery (Brodie's largest work)
A bust of John Hill Burton as portrayed on his wife's grave in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh (carved by William Brodie in 1881)

William Brodie (22 January 1815 – 30 October 1881) was a Scottish sculptor, working in Edinburgh in the 19th century.


He was the son of John Brodie, a Banff shipmaster, and elder brother of Alexander Brodie (1830–1867), also a sculptor.

He was elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in 1857, and Royal Scottish Academician in 1859. In 1876 he was appointed Secretary of the RSA, a post he held until his death.

When he was about six years old, his family moved to Aberdeen. William Brodie was later apprenticed to a plumber, studying in his spare time at the Mechanic's Institute, where he amused himself by casting lead figures of well-known people. He soon began to model small medallion portraits which attracted the attention of John Hill Burton. It was Burton who encouraged him to go to Edinburgh in 1847. Here Brodie studied for four years at the Trustees' School of Design, learning to model on a larger scale, and also executing a bust of one of his earliest patrons, Lord Jeffrey. At this time he lived at 14 Heriot Place in the Lauriston district of Edinburgh.[1]

About 1853 he went to Rome, where he studied under Lawrence Macdonald, and it was with the latter's assistance that he modelled "Corinna, the Lyric Muse", a work which Copeland reproduced in miniature in Parian four years later.

In 1875, he made the group of "A Peer and His Lady Doing Homage" for the Prince Consort Memorial in Edinburgh.

Brodie exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1850–1881, and at the Royal Scottish Academy, 1847–1881; at the Great Exhibition of 1851 he showed a group of "Little Nell and Her Grandfather" (characters from Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop). His most famous work is probably the Greyfriars Bobby Fountain.

The grave of William Brodie RSA, Dean Cemetery

He died at his home at 9 Cambridge Street,[2] Edinburgh, on 30 October 1881.

He is buried with his wife and daughter in the Dean Cemetery under a simple granite monument surmounted by an urn, unlike his far grander monuments to others around him. The grave lies on the north side of the main east-west path, west of the large Beattie obelisk. The urn bears a carving of a caterpillar being reborn as a butterfly, a Greek symbol indicating a belief in reincarnation or a second life beyond death.


He was married to Helen Chisholm (1817-1886). Their daughter Mary Brodie married the maverick Edinburgh architect, Sir James Gowans.

Trained by Brodie[edit]

List of Works[edit]


  1. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1847-48
  2. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1880-81
  3. ^ Wikisource:Boyd, Thomas Jamieson (DNB12)
  • "CORINNA (THE LYRIC MUSE)" in 1859 photo
     This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Brodie, William (1815-1881)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

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