THOMAS BANKS (1735-1805), English sculptor, son of a surveyor who was land steward to the duke of Beaufort, was born in London on the 29th of December 1735. He was taught drawing by his father, and in 1750 was apprenticed to a woodcarver. In his spare time he worked at sculpture, and before 1772, when he obtained a travelling studentship and proceeded to Rome, he had already exhibited several fine works. Returning to England in 1779 he found that the taste for classic poetry, ever the source of his inspiration, no longer existed, and he spent two years in St Petersburg, being employed by the empress Catherine, who purchased his "Cupid tormenting a Butterfly." On his return he modelled his colossal "Achilles mourning the loss of Briseis," a work full of force and passion; and thereupon he was elected, in 1784, an associate of the Royal Academy and in the following year a full member. Among other works in St Paul's cathedral are the monuments to Captain Westcott and Captain Burges, and in Westminster Abbey to Sir Eyre Coote. His bust of Warren Hastings is in the National Portrait Gallery. Banks's best-known work is perhaps the colossal group of "Shakespeare attended by Painting and Poetry," now in the garden of New Place, Stratford-on-Avon. He died in London on the 2nd of February 1805.
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