James Havard Thomas studied sculpture in Bristol, London and Paris. He then lived and worked in Italy from 1899-1906. He was appointed tutor in Sculpture at the Slade School of Art, London, in 1911 and made first Professor of Sculpture there in 1915. He worked in a realistic manner which began to appear somewhat old fashioned in contemporary art circles just prior to the First World War. The figure of Thyrsis appears in the writings of Virgil, the celebrated 1st century BC Latin poet. Thyrsis was a shepherd who sang and played the flute. He took part in a singing contest with another shepherd called Corydon, and Corydon was judged the winner.
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