Artist biography

Sir Alfred GILBERT 1854–1934

Sculptor, mainly in metal, of romantic figure subjects and portraits, and ornamental designer in the Art Nouveau style. Born 12 August 1854 in London. Studied at Heatherley's School from 1872, at the R.A. Schools and under Boehm, then from 1975 to 1878 at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, under P.-J. Cavelier; worked in Rome 1878–84. Exhibited at the R.A. from 1882. The figure of Queen Victoria at Winchester was his first important commission 1887. A.R.A. 1887, R.A. 1892. In 1893 he completed his best-known work, the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain with the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus and was awarded the M.V.O. in 1897. Financial difficulties caused him to spend more and more of his time abroad from 1901. Resigned from the R.A. in 1909 and lived in Bruges with visits to Italy after the war; returned to England 1926 on the invitation of King George V to complete the tomb of the Duke of Clarence at Windsor. He also made the Queen Alexandra Memorial at Marlborough Gate in 1932, was re-elected R.A. and knighted the same year. Died in London 4 November 1934. Memorial exhibitions at the Fine Art Society 1935 and the V. & A. 1936.

Lit: W. Cosmo Monkhouse, ‘Alfred Gilbert, A.R.A.’ in Magazine of Art, 1889, pp.1–5 and 37–40; Joseph Hatton, ‘Alfred Gilbert, R.A.’ in The Easter Annual, Art Journal, 1903; Isabel McAllister, Alfred Gilbert, 1929; E. Machell Cox, Commemorative Catalogue of an exhibition of Models and Designs by the late Sir Alfred Gilbert, R.A., held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, autumn 1936; Adrian Bury, The Shadow of Eros, 1952.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I