Artist biography

English sculptor. He trained in his father's studio and in 1869 entered the Royal Academy Schools, London. In 1872 he travelled via France to Italy.

His early sculptures were generally classical in style but more strongly modelled and animated in conception than the smooth and conventional classicism of the mid-Victorian followers of John Flaxman. Thornycroft soon abandoned Classical subjects in favour of more naturalistic themes, such as the Mower (plaster version shown 1884; bronze, 1894; see fig.), a pioneering example of a life-size statue of a man in working clothes. Its lyrical air, however, distinguishes it from the slightly later and more realistic treatment of labourers by Constantin Meunier. Thornycroft was elected RA in 1888 (ARA in 1881).

Like Gilbert, Thornycroft was an enthusiastic user of the newly rediscovered lost-wax method for casting delicate, small-scale work in bronze. Alongside his monumental sculptures, he produced numerous small bronzes of great refinement, such as the statuette version of Teucer (1889; Preston, Harris Mus. & A.G.). Together with Gilbert he was one of the leading sculptors of the New Sculpture Movement and a life-long friend of Edmund Gosse, the movement's chief critical supporter. He was also a founder-member of the Art Workers' Guild. From 1882 to 1914 Thornycroft taught regularly at the Royal Academy Schools and had considerable influence on younger sculptors, such as William Goscombe John, Frederick Pomeroy and Francis Derwent Wood.

E. Manning: Marble and Bronze: The Art and Life of Hamo Thornycroft (London, 1982) [with further bibliography]
B. Read: Victorian Sculpture (New Haven, 1982)
S. Beattie: The New Sculpture (New Haven, 1983)


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