Lantéri was a French sculptor who followed his master Dalou and moved to London in 1872, after the civil war in Paris. In 1880 he succeeded Dalou as teacher of sculpture at the South Kensington School, which later became the Royal College of Art. He was a successful portrait sculptor in London as well as a teacher.
This 'Head' was presented to the Tate Gallery by Lantéri's pupils. It is modelled to give an example of a strong expression, a tradition of art that goes back to the seventeenth-century 'Têtes d'expression' of the French Academy.