Sculpture by Maker

William Goscombe John - Biography

(1860--1952). Born in Cardiff, son of a wood-carver employed by the Third Marquess of Bute at Cardiff Castle. He worked for the architectural carver Thomas Nicholl, before training at the South London Technical Art School and at the Royal Academy. In 1889 he won the Academy’s Gold Medal and Travelling Scholarship. He travelled in Greece, Turkey and Egypt, before taking a studio in Paris. He returned to London in 1891. The influence of Rodin is particularly conspicuous in his statue of Morpheus (bronze, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff), but elsewhere, as in The Elf (bronze, 1898, Royal Academy of Arts, London) and Merlin and Arthur (bronze, 1902, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea) John explores what became known as the ‘Celtic twilight’. He was immensely prolific in portrait busts, commemorative statuary, church monuments and, after the First World War, in war memorials. For Cardiff City Hall he executed the marble figure of St David (1916), and although his commemorative statuary is to be found in many locations, a high proportion of it in South Wales. A rare example of John’s architectural work can be found on the façade of Electra House, Moorgate, in the City of London (1902). He also carved the statues of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra (1906) for the Cromwell Road front of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was knighted in 1911, the year in which he designed the regalia for the investiture of the Prince of Wales. He joined the Art Workers’ Guild in 1891, and was elected RA in 1909. Sources: S. Beattie, The New Sculpture, New Haven and London, 1983; F. Pearson, Goscombe John at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 1979. [CL2003]

The works of William Goscombe John:

Royal Sussex Memorial, Eastbourne

Statue of VII Duke of Devonshire, Eastbourne

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