Mr. Durham was born in London, in 1821. At a very early age he became an articled pupil of Mr. John Francis, a sculptor of busts, and afterwards worked for three years under Mr. Baily, the eminent sculptor — who, by-the-way, has set so creditable' an example in becoming an “honorary retired Academician.” Being impatient of a protracted course of drawing from the antique, Mr. Durham turned at once to modelling and carving. Nor did he follow the path he might have been expected to take from his connection with Mr. Baily. Mr. Durham has never executed a work in purely classic taste or in strict conformity to the severe canons of tne Greeks. He has preferred seeking to embody the conceptions of modern poetry, and has endeavoured to invest subjects of contemporary, familiar, and domestic interest with the dignity and charm of plastic art. The course which he struck out for himself at the commencement of his career he has consistently followed throughout. The first work which brought his name before the public was his bust of Jenny Lind, in 1848. In 1866 he was commissioned by Sir F. G. Moon to execute a bust of the Queen for presentation to the Corporation of London; and he shortly afterwards produced the statue of “Hermione” for the Egyptian Hall in the Mansion House. This and other subjects of similar character in treatment, as his “L'Allegro,” “Peace,” “Perdita,” “Ophelia,” “A Lady Shall Stand in the Land,” “Sunshine,” and “Alastor,” are in that particular vein in which Mr. Durham evidently works con amore. In another department, that of portraiture of children, Mr. Durham seeks, L pendently of the usual conditions of sculpture in marble, to impart to it something of the interest of a suitable incident of juvenile life. Examples of his playful and domestic treatment are afforded in the “Go to Sleep,” which we have engraved; “Paul and Virginia,” “Trying the Lesson,” of last year; and “Waiting for his Innings,” in the present Academy Exhibition. Mr. Durham was the successful competitor for the memorial of the International Exhibition in the Horticultural Gardens at South Kensington, which we have also engraved. The original design included a pedestal surmounted by a colossal statue of the Queen, as Britannia, inviting to her Crystal Palace the Industry of the world, typified by four figures placed at the angles of the pedestal. For the figure of the Queen that of the Prince Consort was, however, substitute by express desire of her Majesty. Two repliche of this statue haVe been made—one for Framingham, and the other for Guernsey. Mr. Durham has also executed many portrait works, of which we may name the colossal statue of Sir F. Crossley for Halifax, and a statue of the late Lord John Scott for Dunchurch, Warwickshire. Mr. Durham is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. — Illustrated London News (1866)
Monuments and Portrait Sculpture
- Monument to Prince Albert, Royal Albert Hall, London
- Monument to Prince Albert, Guernsey, Channel Islands
- Queen Victoria, Empress Matiolda, and Queen Anne
- Mary Peal
- James Bunstone Mr. Bunning, F. S. A.
Narrative, Literary, and Ideal
- The Picture Book
- Waiting for His Innings
- Florizel and Perdita
- The Rowers (I)
- The Rowers (II)
- Paul and Virginia
- Go to sleep, 1862 (reproduced in Parianware for the London Art-Union, 1863-65. [no image]
British Sculpture 1850-1914. A loan exhibition of sculpture and medals sponsored by The Victorian Society. London: Fine Art Society, 1968.
Greenfield, Martin. "Durham, Joseph (1814-1877)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 17 July 2009.
Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.
Ward-Jackson, Philip. Public Sculpture of the City of London. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2003.
Last modified 22 January 2016