Alfred Gilbert - Encyclopedia

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ALFRED GILBERT (18J4 -), British sculptor and goldsmith, born in London, was the son of Alfred Gilbert, musician. He received his education mainly in Paris (Ecole des Beaux-Arts, under Cavelier), and studied in Rome and Florence where the significance of the Renaissance made a lasting impression upon him and his art. He also worked in the studio of Sir J. Edgar Boehm, R.A. His first work of importance was the charming group of the "Mother and Child," then "The Kiss of Victory," followed by "Perseus Arming" (1883), produced directly under the influence of the Florentine masterpieces he had studied. Its success was great, and Lord Leighton forthwith commissioned "Icarus," which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1884, along with a remarkable "Study of a Head," and was received with general applause. Then followed "The Enchanted Chair," which, along with many other works deemed by the artist incomplete or unworthy of his powers, was ultimately broken by the sculptor's own hand. The next year Mr Gilbert was occupied with the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, in Piccadilly, London, a work of great originality and beauty, yet shorn of some of the intended effect through restrictions put upon the artist. In 1888 was produced the statue of H.M. Queen Victoria, set up at Winchester, in its main design and in the details of its ornamentation the most remarkable work of its kind produced in Great Britain, and perhaps, it may be added, in any other country in modern times. Other statues of great beauty, at once novel in treatment and fine in design, are those set up to Lord Reay in Bombay, and John Howard at Bedford (1898), the highly original pedestal of which did much to direct into a better channel what are apt to be the eccentricities of what is called the "New Art" School. The sculptor rose to the full height of his powers in his "Memorial to the Duke of Clarence," and his fast developing fancy and imagination, which are the main characteristics of all his work, are seen in his "Memorial Candelabrum to Lord Arthur Russell" and "Memorial Font to the son of the 4th Marquess of Bath." Gilbert's sense of decoration is paramount in all he does, and although in addition to the work already cited he produced busts of extraordinary excellence of Cyril Flower, John R. Clayton (since broken up by the artist - the fate of much of his admirable work), G. F. Watts, Sir Henry Tate, Sir George Birdwood, Sir Richard Owen, Sir George Grove and various others, it is on his goldsmithery that the artist would rest his reputation; on his mayoral chain for Preston, the epergne for Queen Victoria, the figurines of "Victory" (a statuette designed for the orb in the hand of the Winchester statue), "St Michael" and "St George," as well as smaller objects such as seals, keys and the like. Mr Gilbert was chosen associate of the Royal Academy in 1887, full member in 1892 (resigned 1909), and professor of sculpture (afterwards resigned) in 1900. In 1889 he won the Grand Prix at the Paris International Exhibition. He was created a member of the Victorian Order in 1897. (See SCULPTURE.) See The Life and Work of Alfred Gilbert, R.A., M.V.O., D.C.L., by Joseph Hatton (Art Journal Office, 1903). (M. H. S.)

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