[1] Ralph W. Robinson, Photography of Sir Thomas Brock, platinotype print, ca.1889-1891
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

[2] Sir Thomas Brock RA, Bust of Frederic, Lord Leighton PRA, bronze, 1892
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

[3] Sir Thomas Brock RA, Model for the tomb of Lord Leighton PRA, plaster, ca.1897-1900
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

[4] Sir Thomas Brock RA, Eve, plaster, ca.1898
© Royal Academy of Arts, London

Artist of the Month - September 2009


Sir Thomas Brock RA (1847-1922)

Brock was born in Worcester in 1847 and it was there that he attended the School of Design before undertaking an apprenticeship in modelling at the Worcester Royal Porcelain Works. In 1866 he became a pupil of the sculptor John Henry Foley, and when the artist died Brock completed many of his commissions. The most important of these was the statue of Prince Albert for the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1867 and won a gold medal for sculpture in 1869. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1883 and a Royal Academician in 1891.

Brock had a studio at 30 Osnaburgh Street, near Regent's Park from 1877 and this photograph was taken there. [1] On Brock's left is a statuette of Sir Bartle Frere, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1888. The full size statue stands on Victoria Embankment.

Brock's most important commissions included the huge equestrian statue of Edward the Black Prince (1896-1903) for Leeds City Square and the Memorial to Queen Victoria on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace. This prestigious commission was given to Brock without him having to compete for it, probably because previously he been successful in his commissions for a new depiction of Queen Victoria's head for coinage used between 1893 and 1901 as well as other statues of monarch which celebrated her Golden and Diamond Jubilees. The statue in the Mall was unveiled in 1911 and George V was so impressed that he knighted Brock then and there.

Lord Leighton PRA was a good friend and mentor of Brock and used Brock's studio to model his sculpture Athlete struggling with a Python, a bronze painted version of which is in the Academy's Collection. In 1881 Brock sculpted a bust of Leighton which he probably worked on when Leighton was using his studio. This earlier bust is undraped and executed in a more restrained and classical style unlike this more formal Bust of Lord Leighton PRA [2]. Given to the Royal Academy as his Diploma work in 1893, this bust shows Leighton wearing his Doctor of Civil Law robes, an honour he was awarded from Oxford University in 1879, as well as the Royal Academy Presidential gold medal. Brock had some difficulty obtaining sittings for this bust due to Leighton's travel commitments. It was over two years after his election in 1891 that Brock was finally able to present his Diploma work to the Royal Academy.

When Leighton died in 1896, his coffin rested at Burlington House for four days before a state funeral and burial in St. Paul's Cathedral. Brock was commissioned to produce a monument to his friend, and the finished bronze and marble memorial was erected in the Cathedral in 1903. The model for the tomb [3] shows the final design which includes an effigy of Leighton with figures at either end representing Painting and Sculpture. The figure of Sculpture holds a statuette of Leighton's sculpture The Sluggard, the original of which had been modelled in Brock's studio between 1882-1885.

Brock also worked on more ideal sculptures such as Eve [4]. This model is for the full scale marble version, now at Tate. The work was highly praised by contemporaries as an innovative depiction of Eve, as the sculptor showed her not as a temptress, but 'with the consciousness of her wrong-doing in her heart, and head bowed with the weight of remorse at the sentence she has drawn upon her offspring.' (M.H. Spielmann, British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-Day, 1901.)

The Bust of Lord Leighton PRA by Sir Thomas Brock is on display in the John Madejski Fine Rooms at the Royal Academy until 29 November 2009.
Opening times 1pm-4.30pm Tuesday to Friday, 10am-6pm Saturday and Sunday (closed Monday). Free entry.