Hamo Thornycroft

  (Redirected from Sir William Hamo Thornycroft)

Sir William Hamo Thornycroft RA (9 March 1850 – 18 December 1925) was an English sculptor, responsible for some of London's best-known statues. He was a keen student of classical sculpture and became one of the youngest members of the Royal Academy.

Hamo Thornycroft
Hamo Thornycroft.jpg
William Hamo Thornycroft, 1884
by Theodore Blake Wirgman
Born(1850-03-09)9 March 1850
London, England
Died18 December 1925(1925-12-18) (aged 75)
Known forSculpture
"Stepping Stones", Kibble Palace, Glasgow

He was the leading figure in the movement known as the New Sculpture, which provided a transition between the neoclassical styles of the 19th century and its later fin-de-siècle and modernist departures.


Hamo Thornycroft belonged to the Thornycroft family of sculptors. Both of his parents, Thomas and Mary, were distinguished sculptors. He was born in London. Hamo's early training was with his parents and he developed a passionate and precocious attachment to Classical sculpture. He subsequently studied at the Royal Academy of Arts, where his primary influence was the painter-sculptor Frederic Leighton. While still a student, he assisted his father in creating an important fountain in Park Lane, London, modelling several important figures in marble and bronze. He won the Gold Medal of the Royal Academy in 1876, with the statue Warrior Bearing a Wounded Youth.[1]

During his studies, Hamo began to return from pictorial realism to the classical Greek forms, and he was the leading figure in the movement known as the New Sculpture.[2] His close personal friend, the critic Edmund Gosse, coined the term "The New Sculpture" in 1894 and formulated its early principles from his relationship with Thornycroft. Thornycroft created a series of statues in the ideal genre in the late 1870s and early 1880s that sought to reanimate the format of the classical statue.[3] These included Lot's Wife (1878) and Artemis and her Hound (1880 plaster, 1882 marble). In 1880 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy,[1] and produced the Homeric bowman Teucer (1881 plaster, 1882 bronze), and the Mower (1884 plaster, 1894 bronze), arguably the first life-size freestanding statue of a contemporary laborer in 19th-century sculpture.[4]

Thornycroft was one of the youngest artists to be elected to the Royal Academy, in 1882, the same year the bronze cast of Teucer was purchased for the British nation under the auspices of the Chantrey Bequest. After 1884, Thornycroft's reputation was secure and he received commissions for a number of major monuments, most notably the innovative General Gordon in Trafalgar Square. He produced other significant statues including The Bishop of Carlisle (1895; Carlisle Cathedral), Oliver Cromwell (Westminster), Dean Colet (a bronze group, early Italianate in feeling, outside St Paul's School, Hammersmith), King Alfred (Winchester), the Gladstone Monument (in the Strand) and Dr Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London (bronze, erected in St Paul's Cathedral). Other significant memorials were built around the British Empire.[1][5]

Thornycroft continued to be a central member of the sculptural establishment and the Royal Academy into the 20th century. He was awarded the medal of honour at the 1900 Paris Exhibition,[1] and was knighted in 1917.[5] He became increasingly resistant to new developments in sculpture, although his work of the early 1880s helped to catalyze sculpture in the United Kingdom towards those new directions. In sum, he provided an important transition between the neoclassical and academic styles of the 19th century and its fin-de-siècle and modernist departures.

A blue plaque commemorates Thornycroft at 2b Melbury Road, Kensington,[6] his studio designed by lifelong friend John Belcher, c. 1892.[7][8]


In addition to his parents, Thornycroft's grandfather John Francis was also a distinguished sculptor. His brother, Sir John Isaac Thornycroft, became a successful naval engineer; their sister, Theresa, was the mother of the poet Siegfried Sassoon; Theresa and sisters Alyce and Helen Thornycroft were artists.

In 1884, Hamo married Agatha Cox, who was fourteen years his junior. At a dinner in 1889, Agatha was introduced to Thomas Hardy, who later described her as "the most beautiful woman in England" and admitted that she was one of the models for the title character in his novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles.[9] Agatha and her husband were interested in the concept of "artistic dress", and a dress worn by her (presumed to be her wedding dress) is held in the costume collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, donated by their daughter.[10]


  • Beattie, Susan. The New Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.
  • Friedman, Terry, ed. The Alliance of Sculpture and Architecture. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 1993.
  • Getsy, David. Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.
  • Getsy, David, "The Problem of Realism in Hamo Thornycroft's 1885 Royal Academy Lecture," The Walpole Society 69 (2007): 211-25.
  • Gosse, Edmund. "Our Living Artists: Hamo Thornycroft, A.R.A." Magazine of Art, 1881, pp. 328–32.
  • Manning, Elfrida. Marble and Bronze: The Art and Life of Hamo Thornycroft. London: Trefoil Books, 1982.
  • Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.
  • White, Adam. Hamo Thornycroft and the Martyr General. Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 1991.


Public statuesEdit



The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Council commissioned Thornycroft to produce a detailed sculpted frieze[21] for their headquarters at Chartered Accountants Hall for a cost of £3,000.

Thornycroft's frieze, carved between 1889-1893, celebrates all the areas of human activity which have benefited from the services of accountants. A series of figures represent Arts, Sciences, Crafts, Education, Commerce, Manufacture, Agriculture, Mining, Railways, Shipping, India, the Colonies, and Building.[22] The figure of the architect is based on the Hall's architect, John Belcher and the sculptor on Thornycroft himself. The figure of the solicitor is H.Markby of Markby, Stewart & Co., who acted for ICAEW in its early years.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e Spielmann, Marion Harry Alexander (1911). "Thornycroft, William Hamo" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 881.
  2. ^ "Thornycroft, William Hamo". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1747.
  3. ^ Getsy, David (2004). Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
  4. ^ Getsy, David (2002). "The Difficult Labor of Hamo Thornycroft's 'Mower', 1884". Sculpture Journal. 7: 53–76.
  5. ^ a b   Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Thornycroft, Sir William Hamo". Encyclopædia Britannica. 32 (12th ed.). London & New York. p. 722.
  6. ^ "THORNYCROFT, SIR HAMO (1850-1925)". English Heritage. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  7. ^ Baistow (1892). "Sir Hamo Thornycroft's studio, 2a Melbury Road, Holland Park, London". RIBApix. Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  8. ^ "The Holland estate: Since 1874, in Survey of London: Volume 37, Northern Kensington,". British History Online. F H W Sheppard (London). 1973. pp. 126–150. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  9. ^ Max Egremont (22 May 2014). Siegfried Sassoon: A Biography. Pan Macmillan. pp. 635–. ISBN 978-1-4472-3478-4.
  10. ^ Calvert, Robyne Erica (2012). "Fashioning the artist: artistic dress in Victorian Britain 1848-1900" (PDF). University of Glasgow PhD thesis. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  11. ^ The Solomon, Kimberley. Accessed 28 February 2016.
  12. ^ [1]. Accessed 8 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Hamo Thornycroft". National Portrait Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London. 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016. albumen cabinet card, 1880s
  14. ^ "Hamo Thornycroft". National Portrait Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London. 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016. photogravure, 1883, published 1884
  15. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, ed. 1911, vol. 24, pg. 505, Plate IV.
  16. ^ Marsh, Dr. Jan (2016). "Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue". National Portrait Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Alfred the Great (849-899)". The Victorian Web. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Alfred, Lord Tennyson". TrinityCollegeChapel. Trinity College Cambridge. Retrieved 15 September 2016. Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., carved this in 1909.
  19. ^ "Statue of Lot's Wife". The Courthauld Gallery. Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art: The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Retrieved 15 September 2016. Location England, London, Leighton House
  20. ^ "Sir (William) Hamo Thornycroft ('Men of the Day. No. 533.')". National Portrait Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London. 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016. published in Vanity Fair 20 February 1892
  21. ^ "Friezes (ornamental bands)". Art & Architecture. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  22. ^ Pile, Liz. "Chartered Accountants' Hall - Analysis - A building of distinction". Accountancy Daily. Croner-i. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  23. ^ Howitt, Harold (1966). The History of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales 1880-1965 and of its founder Accountancy Bodies 1870-1880: The Growth of a Profession and its Influence on Legislation and Public Affairs. London: Heinemann. p. 206.

External linksEdit