James Watt (1736-1819)
Bronze on a Devonshire granite pedetal
George Square, Glasgow
The great inventor and engineer James Watt began his career by making mathematical instruments in Glasgow, and later carried out surveys of the Clyde, Forth and other canals, as well as improving the Clyde estuary ports (see McKenzie 123). Chantrey made a number of busts of Watt, which were regarded at the time as "the epitome of the sculptor's renowned ability to suggest the inner workings of a powerful mind" (McKenzie 123). They became good friends, and Chantrey is said to have secured a fine likeness of him in this monument. For all its defilement by the large bird population of George Square, it is a haunting study of someone totally absorbed in his intellectual pursuit, and it nicely illustrates the contemporary view of Chantrey's genius: "He calls up no established visions of the past; the moment.he breathes in is his; the beauty and the manliness which live and move around him are his materials" (qtd. in Potts 17).
Photograph and text Jacqueline Banerjee
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