Sir Joshua Reynolds by Alfred Drury, R.A., 1856-1944. 1931. Bronze. Forecourt of Burlington House (in front of the Royal Academy), off Piccadilly, London. [Click on photographs to enlarge them.] This statue, which was erected with money from the Leighton Fund, honours the artist who was a founding member of the Royal Academy, and its first president. Alfred Drury's model for it won the commission over Derwent Wood's in a competition held in 1917 (Read 345); but it took Drury many years to complete the work.

Reynolds is shown in a rather balletic pose, standing poised in front of an unseen canvas, paintbrush raised, palette and more brushes in his left hand. Prominently placed, the bronze on its stone pedastel makes an arresting and appropriate greeting to the gallery's many visitors — including those who come for the famous Summer Exhibitions, held under the RA's auspices for more than two centuries now (see Weinreb et al. 705).

Compare this work with the more naturalistic and relaxed statue of Millais by Sir Thomas Brock, now at the back of Tate Britain. Is it fair to say that in the latter, the emphasis is more on the character of the man, than on his effect as an artist? Are there inevitably differences between sculpting a figure from recent memory, and sculpting one from likenesses produced in the past?

Photographs by Robert Freidus. caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee. Formatting by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

References

Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1982.

Weinreb, Ben et al. The London Encyclopaedia. 3rd Ed. London: Macmillan, 2008.


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Last modified 4 April 2009