1902 Encyclopedia > Sculpture > English Sculpture - 18th Century.

(Part 10)

English Sculpture - 18th Century.

During the 18th century English sculpture was mostly in the hands of Flemish and other foreign artists, of whom Roubiliac (1695-1762), Scheemakers (1691-1773), and Rysbrack (1694-1770) were the chief. The ridiculous custom of representing Englishmen of the 18th and 19th centuries in the toga or in the armour of an ancient Roman was fatal alike to artistic merit and eikonic truth; and when, as was often the case, the periwig of the Georgian period was added to the costume of a Roman general the effect is supremely ludicrous. Nollekens (1737-1823), a pupil of Scheemakers, though one of the most popular sculptors of the 18th century, was a man of very little real ability. John Bacon (1740-1799) was in some respects an abler sculptor. John Flaxman (1755-1826) was in England the chief initiator of the classical revival. For many years he worked for Josiah Wedgwood, the potter, and designed for him an immense number of vases covered with delicate cameo-like reliefs. Many of these, taken from antique gems and sculpture, are of great beauty, though hardly suited to the special necessities of fictile ware. Flaxman's large pieces of sculpture are of less merit, but some of his marble reliefs are designed with much spirit and classic purity. His illustrations in outline to the poems of Homer, iEschylus, and Dante, based on drawings on Greek vases, have been greatly admired, but
they are unfortunately much injured by the use of a thicker outline on one side of the figures,—an unsuccessful attempt to give a suggestion of shadow. Flaxman's best pupil was Baily (1788-1867), chiefly celebrated for his nude marble figure of Eve.


260-4 An interesting account of many English sculptors of this time is given by Smith, Nollekens and his Time, London, 1829.

260-5 See Flaxman, Lectures at the Royal Academy, London, 1829. His designs on a small scale are the best of his works,—as, for example, the silver shield of Achilles covered with delicate and graceful reliefs.

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